Eleven years ago I was diagnosed with sporadic Inclusion Body Myositis (sIBM). I have become wheelchair dependent and certain every day tasks now become impossible for me to do without assistance. I am lucky. I have the assistance of not one, but two of the most wonderful friends a fellow could have. The first is my beautiful Wife, Lesley. The second is a lad called Murphy.
Murphy is a four year old Yellow Labrador. He came to me through the UK charitable organisation, Canine Partners, which specialises in the training and partnering of care assistance dogs for people living with disability. Obviously Murphy cannot assist me in all areas of my disability. What he can do, and do brilliantly well, is to assist me with picking things up when I cannot reach or lift them, for example the daily post, remote controls, light switches etc. He opens doors for me so I can get about the bungalow and outside in my wheelchair. He does these things with such care and enthusiasm . Should my spectacles be out of my reach, quick as a flash, Murphy has placed them back in my hand.
Living with sIBM hits me psychologically as well as physically. My muscles continue to waste and ever increasingly my body becomes the prisoner of gravity. Murphy intuitively seems to know when the dark grey cloud of depression gather above me. He lifts me back out of this by his careful touch of his nose to my hand. He offers me his paw and he gives me a kiss. Job done.
Lesley first alerted me to Canine Partners having seen their wonderful dogs on the internet and the amazing extent to which they can assist a person with disability. We eventually decided to apply for my partnering with a care giving dog having talked with some of the Canine Partners staff at the Nadex exhibition in Birmingham. Our first experience of Murphy was when Lesley and I attended the Leicester CP Centre to undergo a basic introduction as to the training commands and to understand the idiosyncrasies and the different characteristics of individual dogs, for example, some dogs present enthusiastically and boldly, others gently and quietly. Murphy was the very first dog attached to my wheelchair as I was taught the basic commands. Although I had met several other dogs that day, all equally wonderful, Murphy was my favourite. He was so eager to assist. He was so very happy. He looked at me intently, his tail never once stopped wagging.
About a year or so later providence provided the opportunity for me to be actually partnered with Murphy. On first hearing of this my immediate emotions were both love and happiness followed by a little bit of trepidation lest the extent of my disability prevented a viable partnership.
A two week training course followed. However, I had very much underestimated the fatigue caused to me by the pace of it, especially my inability to cope with the limited but more physical aspects of the training. I became worried then that I would be unable progress with the partnering as it would be impossible for me to effectively care for Murphy’s needs in the future. Despite assurances from the very understanding staff and imploring from Lesley as to how my worries may be overcome, we returned home without Murphy. Back at our Bungalow things were now very glum as we so missed Murphy . I felt that I had let the poor chap down and couldn’t stop thinking of him.
After a few days back at home , when by myself I had a silly accident clumsily leaning forward trying to get my phone charger cable. I fell out of my chair, injured my hand and was taken to Hospital to have it treated. As we sat in the A&E waiting room we reflected upon this was the fourth accident I had occurred in as many years – including a broken collar bone and concussion . All such injuries due to my own frustrations in trying to do everyday very basic stuff that my body would no longer let me do. This latest injury made me realise how things could be so much better if Murphy had been by my side. The same day I phoned Canine Partners and asked if could complete my training, this time with additional input from Lesley to cover those vital aspects that I couldn’t manage for Murphy by myself which included feeding and doggy toilet area hygiene.
We returned to complete the training. Our dedicated trainer was very professional and excellent in her kind instructions to both Lesley and me. Murphy was, as ever, helpful and accommodating. We were overjoyed to be reunited with him, this time forever. Having Murphy with us today is a great privilege. Like the Carole King song, I just call out his name and I’ll know wherever he is, he’ll come running to help me again. He will lift up my weary arms should they have fallen down the side of my chair and he will lovingly rest them back upon the armrests. He will reposition my feet on the footplate should they become too uncomfortable.
The Summer of 2018 gave us days and days of sunshine. Murphy and I spent these days together in our beautiful garden. Murphy by my side being so attentive to my needs, bringing to me my magazines, picking up things that may have dropped from my lap, and best of all him simply resting his head upon my seated knee as together we peacefully watched those warm days going by. In the evening Murphy will help Lesley to undress me – the removal of my socks a task he is most proud of. He then helps Lesley as she tucks me up in bed. He gives me his final kiss of the day and lies down on his bed next to me. Invariably, upon opening my eyes in the morning, the first thing I see is Murphy’s big wet nose and two dewy brown eyes looking down at me accompanied by the drum of his wagging tail bashing upon the bedside cabinet. A new day to be enjoyed.
Murphy wouldn’t let it be any other way.
At the weekends Lesley and I take Murphy out to the local park where he can run about and enjoy himself. It is lovely to see him having fun in his ‘daft dog’ mode efore once again eagerly accepting his care dog duties. Murphy will never cease to amaze us.
Simply, we Love him.