Living with a neuro muscular disease has posed many challenges in my life. But I found a ray of sunshine and unwavering support in the form of my beloved Mobility Dog, Jackson. We have embarked upon an incredible journey together and his presence in my life has not only given me increased independence and daily assistance, but it has also brought immeasurable joy and love.
I was diagnosed with CMT, a neuro muscular disease, at the young age of 20, and I was told that I had a limited time to live. However, here I am, approaching my 65th birthday in 2024. After many falls, which caused problems to bones, muscles and tendons, I was advised, for my own safety and well-being, to go into a power wheelchair.
That was 23 years ago. Up until then, I was employed full time includes roles in the clothing trade, psychiatric residential care, the area of traumatic brain injury, and since leaving paid work, I have dedicated my time to volunteer positions. Initially, I volunteered with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, and Women’s Refuge, then I went on to manage Outreach Therapy Pets as well as supporting various community initiatives such as reading programs for children. Currently I coordinate a food bank called C3 Cares that feeds over 65 families a week. It is the highlight of my day, knowing that kids are going to bed with a full stomach.
As my disease progressed, it became increasingly clear that relying solely on equipment was not going to be enough. The concept of Mobility Dogs was introduced to me at a conference in Masterton, where I had the opportunity to connect with the original founder of the Mobility Assistance Dogs Trust. Fueled by the possibilities of what a dog could do to assist me, I eventually decided to welcome a Mobility Dog into my life.
Jackson, a Labrador Retriever cross, trained by Mobility Dogs, entered my life about 6 years ago. He joined me at the age of two and quickly underwent specific training tailored to my needs. From the moment we met, there was an instant bond between us.
We have become a unique team of handler and dog, the trust, love and commitment between us continues to grow, and we often anticipate each other’s moves and need. Jackson retrieves anything I drop; he even helps me with the washing. If I drop something on the ground it is a pain to lower the chair to try to pick things up, so he will pick up the item and pass it to me. I also have ropes on doors and cupboard which Jackson will use to open and close them for me on command.
“Jackson is not just a Mobility Dog; he is my friend, my companion, my helper and my comforter.”
You could not wish for an animal with so much training, so much commitment, so much love and so ready to please me at the snap of a finger. Our bond is so strong that we often don’t need words to communicate. Jackson knows exactly where I need to be, and he positions himself right beside me. Our connection a true testament to the incredible bond that can develop between a Mobility Dog and their handler.
When Jackson and I initially began venturing into our community, we faced some obstacles. People were curious, wanting to touch, pet, and interact with Jackson. It took time for them to understand that he is a working dog and they are not allowed to pat him when he is wearing his jacket. As people became more familiar with our partnership, understanding and acceptance grew.
Jackson has become an integral part of my life, providing support and assistance that I could not imagine living without. He is my constant companion, and if there are places he cannot go, then we simply do not go together. He is not just my Mobility Dog; he is an extension of myself, ingrained in every aspect of my daily life. Having Jackson has been a blessing that has enhanced my quality of life in immeasurable ways.
Jackson has not only enriched my life but also opened doors for new friendships and conversations. People are naturally drawn to him, and we are well known in my area in the malls and supermarkets, everyone says hi to him and he just loves all the attention – I tell people that when he wags his tail, it means he is waving to you.
If you find yourself living with a disability, I wholeheartedly recommend considering a Mobility Dog. They offer not only practical support but they also enhance your life by giving you confidence, companionship, and they help create new friends. The impact of a dog like Jackson goes beyond words.