Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable degenerative disease, so I felt lost and a little alone when I was diagnosed with it in 2001. Many daily tasks such as picking up dropped items, opening doors, gates and more become increasingly difficult. Asking people to pass items to me, pick things up or open doors is a constant reminder of the condition, however kind people are.
I was at a disability road show when I first met Canine Partners, who had a stand there. After successfully being assessed and applying for a canine partner, I made a few visits to the National Training Centre in West Sussex to meet some dogs - which is where I hit it off with Daxi. This was later followed by a two-week residential training course, where we learnt a tremendous amount and got to know each other properly.
Daxi is now with me 24 hours a day and we are never more than a few feet apart. We know each other really well now and can read each other easily. If I am feeling particularly bad, he’s right by my side keeping a close eye on me.
I depend on him for all sorts of practical things. He picks up things I drop such as my spectacles, cheque book, pens and money and he fetches things for me. He opens gates and doors; he supports me if I fall. However, just as important to me are the emotional and psychological benefits I get from the partnership. He can tune in to my general mood every day and adjust his treatment of me as to how I feel.
Becoming disabled is a life changing experience. Having been very active in the past, running my own business and being generally very busy, I now find myself on my own a great deal of the time and can feel very isolated. Simple tasks become really challenging and I sometimes feel like it’s easier not to try.
With Daxi I have more structure to my day. I have always loved getting out and about into the countryside, so walking Daxi twice a day gets me out again. Having him with me gives me the confidence to go out more, to try new things and to meet people. What’s more I feel safe and my wife is less worried now that he is with me.
I get periods of great pain, particularly late at night. Daxi helps me through this by getting up and comforting me by sitting at my feet. I am never alone, even if he is not doing a specific task.
Having Daxi with me transforms the way other people treat me. It really eases the way strangers act towards me and gives us something positive to talk about. Having him around really cheers me up, as he’s so full of life. Seeing him thunder through the woods when he’s off duty really lifts my spirits - I may not be able to run about myself, but I can share the fun he has.
Daxi is a loyal and trusted friend. Only recently I was teaching him to fetch my various shoes and slippers using treats to reinforce the lesson. Later that same week my wife was buying slippers in a shoe shop, with me and Daxi in tow. Suddenly as we entered the shop, Daxi had a concentrated and excited expression on his face. He was looking at all the shoes and working out how many treats they would be worth if he brought them all to me!
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