I was partnered with my new Mobility Dog Hank at the recent camp held in March. I was absolutely thrilled to be partnered with him. It felt like it had been a long wait, and there was definitely a high level of excitement and expectation about getting my dog.

The first few days of camp went by so quickly as there was so much to learn and to take in. I learned a lot from the discussions we had with the trainers, and there were a lot of commands to remember and put into practice. It was such a friendly, supportive and easy-going atmosphere that it made it fun.

We were at camp for two weeks and each week was very different. The first week was based at the camp itself and focused on learning and practicing everything we were taught. Most mornings I took Hank for a walk around the complex and we would practice before class started. We also got to know the other recipients and their support teams. I really enjoyed the companionship of everyone at the camp.

The key commands we were taught to use with our dogs included: ‘wait’, ‘tug’ to open the door, ‘nudge’ to close the door/drawer, and ‘look get it’ to pick things up off the floor. Sometimes the commands taught differed between us all as we all have different needs and require our dogs to different things.

The second week was spent going out in the community and getting used to handling the dogs in public. We went to malls, parks, restaurants and various forms of public transport.  It was a bit overwhelming at first, as we were a large group with gorgeous dogs and so we tended to attract a lot of attention! My highlight was going to the Botanical Gardens where I used a mobility scooter, and for the first time I could keep up with the rest of the group.

I was nervous when it came time to leave camp as I knew I was going to miss the company and support of the trainers and other participants.

However, my life has changed considerably since I got home. I used to only go out once a week on a Thursday. Now I go out every day to take Hank for a walk, and twice a week we go to the local dog park for Hank to have a run. This is where I also get to talk to other dog owners.

My pain levels aren’t as high as Hank helps me with things that used to cause me a lot of problems. He also carries my coffee cup holder which I used to drop and break regularly. I have not had a broken cup since Hank arrived!

My family all live out of Auckland, and they are delighted that I now have Hank to help me. His constant companionship and support has changed my life and it’s fantastic!