Last May I went to West Sussex about having a Canine Partner.It was prompted by a local Blind Lady encouraging me, together with seeing assistance dogs at a disability conference a few years ago and the fact that my present dog is in her 16th year.
It took a bit of organising but our local Good neighbours volunteers managed to find someone to drive and accompany me and with the social services paying the cost of fuel with by Direct Payments.
The two days in West Sussex were great, and a real blast from the past, as i`d spent many years living there. Being in the month of May, it was beautiful, the trees and flowers at their most vivid. The Lady that drove was already a partial friend, but became a good friend through this experience. I loved all the dogs, and though self conscious and shy I enjoyed the assessment. The staff and dogs are all amazing and even on that one day I learnt such a lot about what the dogs could do, their training and my needs.
I was visited by a occupational therapist at my home and have now been on the waiting list since my assessment since last May. Here she looked round, assessed my needs, met my life and wrote it all down.
I received a letter conforming that I was accepted and the wait was 18mths to two years while they found a suitable Pup for me and trained them towards me needs.
In the meantime I have to save the money to get there and stay for the two weeks training.
Expenses have been worked out as follows:
Accomodation x 2 people for 14 days £700
Mobility vehicle hire £1,073
So, as id never have that money, especially since mine has kindly been cut. My best friend, the person I trust 100% to have my best interests at heart took on the task of raising the money. No matter how many people tell me that I am not begging, it feels that way to me. By someone else taking the reins, it means that I can be involved as little or much as I choose to be, without being wheeled out in front of people for the ahhhhhhhh factor.
So a Crowdfunding page was opened, this raised £770, but closed on March the 18th as they have a limited life span. This morphed into a paypal account, which continued to be used and still does for any money raised, together with a Twitter and Facebook page! (She really was a busy Lady!)
This though was about the time it grew some wings
and took on a life of its own and grew in momentum, it became a community project. Straight away someone from a local garage donated the first tank of petrol to get to the Canine Partners training; the local pub; good neighbours; the wife of a parish counsellor; a local band; friends far and wide in the county; all with this shared goal, it was all so heartwarming, It felt a bit surreal at times, but so welcoming to me.
It can often be quite hard for a person with a disability to feel accepted because of their differences, societies attributions, their own past experiences can crowd their own perceptions on whether they feel accepted or not, and of course the general layout of where they live can inhibit how much they can join in with local events, etc.
There was an evening arranged at my local pub, a band had volunteered to play for the evening for free, tickets were sold, raffle prizes given, a donation for snacks given and the word put out.
The night came and it was perfect in so many ways, and not all to do with the reason we were there. My closest friends came, some drove from an hour away, and others were staying with local friends as they lived a while away. I flitted from table to table, and enjoyed seeing them all in one room, and to be honest I felt so loved.
I was over the moon to see my family turn up as I wasn
t sure they would, and it was nice to spend time with them outside of a family situation. My Son came, not for long as it really wasn`t his scene. He came in, spoke to a few people, sat down near me for a while and then left to chat to his girlfriend, but he had come!
Seven years ago the village raised money for both my wheelchairs, but whether it was me or whether it was the situation but it felt so different. I had to make more personal appearances, thank people at several venues, etc, and I felt embarrassed, a loss of dignity and though I was being made to thank people as a child would.
This experience has been free flowing, more natural and I have wanted genuinely to thank everyone, plus some, for their efforts, kindness and continued support and interest. So through these last few months I have met new people, got to know others better, and have started opening up a new world, and this is before I even have my new canine friend who will open even more doors with it`s arrival. I even have a new friend that will go dog walking with me when I get my dog!
s just a matter of waiting for news of when a suitable Pup is found and ready and I am over half way up the waiting list. Canine Partners have had a few hold ups, in the shape of high enquiries, recently losing two members of their training staff, having a higher than usual fail rate in their dogs with behaviour or illness anda few of their brood bitches being withdraw due to health reasons, resulting in less Puppies.
However they have placed 29 dogs this year so far and hope to have placed 84 by the end of 2016.
After the Pub fund raiser where over £600 was raised, someone anonymous kindly donated what was left to raise, a sum of £900 and now we have the full amount needed to get to the training centre in a hired WAV vehicle, pay for myself and my driver/carer for two weeks to stay and eat and any added costs.
To my bestie a huge thank you, and to all those that donated, big money or small, thank you, to those that came to support me, thank you and to those that stop me when I
m out to ask if ive heard anything, thank you and to those that support me via the internet, thank you!