Living with an Assistance Dog
It's scary how quickly your life can change, one day you´re an active, sporty, independent person and in the blink of an eye it all changes forever.
This is my story of how Key the Medical Alert Assistance Dog came into my life.
I had a normal life before being diagnosed, I rode my beautiful horses everyday, took long walks with my pack of dogs and had a very stressful full time job, then the unexpected happened I collapsed in a restaurant, before the food arrived (No it wasn't the wait!!) The ambulance guys insisted on taking me to hospital and that was the day my life changed forever.
I was diagnosed with a chronic degenerative autoimmune disease with a life expectancy of just 10 to 15 years. Well as you can imagine I was beyond devastated, my world fell apart. I was not allowed to ride my horses again as I have a high risk of getting a brain hemorrhage, walking with the dogs became a struggle as I fought against the constant debilitating pain and chronic fatigue. The medication prescribed to keep me alive and kicking caused massive weight gain, hallucinations, depression, anxiety, aggression and insomnia. (Great joy).
So what to do?? Curl up on the sofa and wait out my hopefully 15 years plus or fight? Being the tough African girl that I am fight it was. I was and still am determined to beat this.
I was driving one day and must have been about to pass out when my Podengo, Fig released her safety belt and started pulling at my elbow which woke me up and enabled me to pull into the services avoiding a situation which doesn't bear thinking about. Unfortunately Fig was unable to qualify as an Assistance Dog. But Key a rescued Border Collie pup came on the scene and stepped up to the plate.
Even as a young puppy he was different, relaxed and calm, taking everything in his stride. He underwent intensive training to become a fully qualified Assistance Dog.
Key is a Medical Alert dog which means that he alerts me when things are not as they should be. Key "reads" my blood levels through his sense of smell he is able to pick up differences in the levels and alerts me to this so I can adjust the medication and take preventative action such as sitting down and relaxing. He gives me a window of about half an hour and he will continue alerting until I take action.
When I forget to take my medication Key knows and at home he will bring me the medication and a cup and water. If we are out he will alert until I take the medication and then he will settle down.
He has been trained to activate a Guardian SOS fob and remain with me until help arrives should I collapse. This is an amazing system with a tracking device and communication feature that enables the service provider to send the relevant emergency services.
Key helps me around the house on a daily basis by fetching and carrying things, turning lights on and off, opening and closing doors and even helping me remove socks, shoes and jackets. He even collects the other dogs' bowls and brings them to me so I can dish up, which they are all very appreciative of!
We have traveled through Europe to the UK via coaches, taxis, trains and planes. Key took everything in his stride, as though he had done it hundreds of times. On the plane he curled up in the foot space and remained there the entire flight, the passengers sitting next to us had no idea he was on board until we landed and he poked his head up to see what was happening next.
My life has changed a lot since being diagnosed. It has however made me realize just how important dogs are in our lives, how they can help, how they are always there to listen and are never judgmental. Key is with me through the dark times and the good times, he cheers me up when I'm down, he makes me slow down when I'm doing too much, he keeps me company on my many hospital visits and above all he is an amazing dog who is my best friend and lifeline he has given me back my independence and confidence. Together we can tackle anything, thank you Key my dog in a million.
Having Key in my life motivated me to qualify as an Assistance Dog Trainer and I am now also the Vice Chairperson of Alertalegria Associacão de Cães de Assistencia Internacional and currently have a young dog in training to hopefully become an Assistance Dog to help someone in need. These dogs are fantastic, they are focused, intelligent and a huge comfort, if you would like to meet Key or would like us to give a presentation on Assistance Dogs please get in touch. Awesome Dogs Assistance