Dogs for the Disabled



OK here is my story...

Me and Petra

Before my accident in 1997, I was an active family man who loved most sports and outdoor activities along with an avid love of dogs,travel and the countryside. My able bodied life ended when I fell from my house ladder,cleaning the windows, the result being a broken neck, leaving me a Quadriplegic C6 complete lesion. I was hospitalised for the next 6 months. I live life at home in my manual wheelchair, but get my independence by using a powered wheelchair outside, from which I drive a van from. On taking possesion of my van I borrowed a neighbors dog and started walking again sat in my powered wheelchair, I loved it out in the countryside again.

However sat in my chair whatever item I drop I could not retrieve. You see through my paralysis I have no finger operation so I am dropping objects all the time, every day items such as wallet, keys, remotes. My confidence was waning and yet I loved driving, but the neighbors dog was not trained to assist me. So you can now see the basis of my application to Dogs for the Disabled for an assistance dog, I needed something to pull, push, retrieve and companionship, to give me an independent life at home in the garden and outdoors.

In 2006 I took possesion of Petra a black labrador, since then my quadriplegic life has enhanced tremendously. First of all I loved the obedience side of the training and reached the Kennel Club Good Citizens Gold Award, which apparently few wheelchair bound people achieve, she accompanies me wherever I go. We have traveled all over the UK and holidayed into France, Spain, Switzerland and Italy all driving my van with Petra as a passenger.

But really it is the everyday benefit of having my dog that helps me the most. You see I am a shade peculiar as a severely disabled person, in that my comfort zone is outdoors. My philosophy for good health is fresh air !

By having Petra it has enabled me to achieve this by walking her everyday in all weather. She gets between 12-30 mile a week off lead countryside walking. Somedays when I feel under the weather from my disability I don't feel like taking her, but on my return I feel the benefit. I am lucky were I live, there is an abundance of country parks and old colliery branch disused railway lines that have been converted into access for all paths. Petra has helped me recover the love of sport, gardening, driving, photography and walking albeit in a wheelchair. She retires next year when she is 12 years old and I am dreading the day !

I hope this somewhat concise story gives your club an insight as to what your support to our charity means in real terms to a disabled person. I hope I can meet you all one day.

Many thanks
Ken Heathcote and Petra