The disease has affected me in many different ways; the muscles in my legs became very wasted leaving my joints extremely painful. Operations were done to fuse the ankles/knees but this was not a livable life. I therefore took the decision to have my right leg amputated above the knee in 2008, which was the best decision I made. I also had my left leg amputated in March this year, so am now living with no legs which is a whole new ball game. It is difficult but I will win, especially as I have Minnie by my side plus my husband, children and grandchildren!
It was about ten years ago when I first discovered Dog A.I.D.; not long after I had got my chocolate Labrador Murphy who is now eleven. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any trainers in my area at the time. However, when I got my Italian Spinone Minnie some time later I took her to a local school where I met Peta Brandwood who subsequently became approved as a Dog A.I.D. trainer and approached me to join the Dog A.I.D. programme – I was over the moon!
Minnie and I have worked hard at the training, but I am not always able to do as much as I would like to because of my condition. I was therefore thrilled to get our Level 1 Training Assistance Dog certificate in October 2015. Unfortunately I have had a number of health set backs this year but hopefully we will be back on track with Level 2 very soon. My hands are now becoming a real issue, my grip is extremely poor and I often use my mouth/teeth instead. Picking things up at times is a nightmare and my hands are becoming clawed in their shape. I can no longer peel vegetables, lift pans etc so cooking is an issue. Drying my hair is a struggle and there are so many things I can no longer do which most people take for granted.
The tasks Minnie is already helping me with is opening doors, picking up items such as the phone and my comb – patiently giving them to me over and over again as I can’t always grip the object. If I drop washing on the way to the machine, she will pick that up for me and in time she will be trained to empty the washing machine. With Minnie there it means I am far less likely to fall out of my chair trying to reach for things I shouldn’t ought to and she already helps me in more ways I could ever have imagined.
If I go out with Minnie, I don’t feel like I am being stared at all the time, as everyone is looking at her. People now see a person in a wheelchair with a lovely assistance dog in training. They want to talk to me and stroke Minnie, which means I don’t feel quite so selfconscious and embarrassed - I love the fact people notice us for the right reasons.
Since we have started to train with Dog A.I.D., I have met so many new people - many of whom also have mobility issues and fabulous dogs with them! My husband and I really enjoy fundraising, so have something rewarding we can do together. I am currently fundraising as I need to lose weight before my next surgery in December. Further details can be found at www.mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/jilldoran1. I was recently asked by Dog A.I.D. to talk at their Trainers Workshop, advising on wheelchair etiquette and helping them understand what it is like to live a daily life with limited mobility. Before Dog A.I.D., I rarely went out as I lacked so much confidence - in fact I was becoming a recluse. It was easier to stay in than work out the best route to where I wanted to go, find out what access was like and I was frightened of getting stuck somewhere. Now I go on training weekends, to the shops, talk to people about Minnie and promote Dog A.I.D. All of this has given me a new life! I never realised what a supportive and positive impact training Minnie as my assistance dog would have on me, all thanks to Dog A.I.D.!
About Dog A.I.D.
Dog A.I.D. provides pet dog training to people over fifteen years old with physical disabilities up to Assistance Dog standard where suitable. Dog A.I.D. was established in the 1990’s and there are currently 47 fully qualified dogs throughout the country. Training takes from 18 months to two years with both dog and owner receiving specialist education from a network of trainers based around the country. Dog A.I.D. is now a national voluntary organisation accredited by the National and International umbrella groups, which uphold the high standards required for Assistance Dog training.
For further information please visit www.dogaid.org.uk