Over a year after being partnered with her assistance dog Isabel, Kirsten is now telling her story about how Canine Partners has helped her. It comes as the charity looks to recruit trainers to assist other people in similar positions.
“I was always a very active person and spent my evenings playing in a samba band, singing in the Isle of Wight ladies barbershop choir and a band, helping out at our local riding centre with the evening novice jumping classes and looking after my beautiful horse Daisy. My love of animals meant I even started my own business called ‘Home Alone’ which meant I spent my days looking after dogs, walking them, feeding cats and other animals.
“Looking back I really did lead quite a busy life, I was always out and about, so that is why it was, and still is, very hard for me to cope with my disability – but I do because I have no choice.
“The day I had a stroke my life changed. In 2009 I was in hospital and a care home for a total of a year with a bleed in my brain. When I woke up I realised I could not walk, talk or move very well and I became depressed. My head felt like mush, I had double vision and I was very scared.
“While I was recuperating a lady left a brochure about Canine Partners. I knew I would never have my own business again but I may be able to look after a dog. This thought made me very excited. When I had been at home for a couple of years I knew it was the time to find out more about the assistance dog charity Canine Partners.
“I was very lonely and I couldn’t get dressed or undressed by myself. I dropped so many items like my mobile and remote control that I couldn’t reach or pick up with a grabber. I never went out as I was so self-conscious about how I looked and the weight I had put on from the medication which I had been taking because of the nerve pain I have.
“After filling out the application form and patiently waiting I was matched with a dog called Isabel; she is a very pretty Labrador golden retriever cross. I was very nervous and excited when I saw her. She listened to her instructor more than me at first which was to be expected as I had only just met her. But I knew a bit about dogs and everything takes time – and I had lots of that!
“Now I wake up every morning with a beautiful dog in my room that is always happy and willing to help me. She fetches my slippers – whether I want them or not – and picks up anything and everything that is dropped on the floor, including my mobile and remote controls. She helps me with taking my socks and trousers off and will be patiently waiting to help with any more of my clothing needs. She is learning to load and empty the washing machine at the moment, as well as tidying up her toys after herself. She is so clever!
“Isabel is also trained to move the foot parts on the wheelchair and loves doing it for a treat! Lots of the everyday tasks she just does automatically for me now, I don’t even have to tell her anymore she just does them, and loves doing it.
“I used to hate going shopping in town because I was self-conscious but now everyone looks at her and not me! I go everywhere now; Isabel has given me a lot more freedom.
“Everyone has fallen in love with my canine partner and she loves meeting people as well as other dogs. She enjoys her free time in the park and I get to talk to people who would normally pass me by. Her doggy friends love to run after her as she is very fast, and I get to talk to other people who are always interested to know more about the Charity.
“Isabel is a great talking point and people are always coming up to us to talk and find out more. When we were at the hospital we met a lovely lady with the same name as Isabel – she was very amused and impressed by what she could do and wanted to know all about the Charity.
“Even though I have acute nerve pain every day, Isabel is good at taking my mind off the pain. She is a great companion and makes me feel better about myself by just being there for me. Isabel has enabled me to become more independent as I can be left on my own and she makes me feel safe because she is always there by my side.
“We go everywhere together and she always makes me smile when she looks at me with her beautiful eyes. Isabel has given me back my independence.
“I am so grateful to Canine Partners for all the hard work they do in finding and training Isabel. I am also thankful to the puppy parents who spent a long time with Isabel and who must have been sad to see her go but I couldn’t imagine my life without her now. Isabel is just perfect to me”.
Would you like to help transform the life of someone with a disability? Canine Partners are looking for more puppy parents willing to take on the early training of a puppy that will one day do something amazing.
The Isle of Wight satellite group is looking for volunteer puppy parents, who need to be able to attend weekly puppy classes. Reasonable travel expenses will be covered and puppy food, toys, equipment, all veterinary costs and training is provided.
For further information on becoming a puppy parent email [email protected] or call 07808968409.