Mazey and Me by Kathie Ward
I am a full-time wheelchair user and have been for quite a number of years now. I was in Northallerton, North Yorkshire demonstrating my adapted vehicle when I came across a leaflet for the charity Support Dogs.
At the time we had two lovely dogs aged 14 and 15 and I thought nothing more about it. A year or so later, after both dogs had passed, I dug out the leaflet that stated that it trained your pet with you, not for you, to do any task work that you found difficult or even impossible!
We found our first dog through a number of co-incidences. This was Sadie, a Cocker Spaniel (with attitude as we quickly found out).
My Husband and I attended their training centre in Sheffield, with Sadie, for an interview where I could find out what the training programme entailed. I was somewhat over-awed at the tasks that the dogs could potentially do and totally hooked – I couldn’t wait to begin but, as with all good things, there was a waiting list.
The day dawned for commencement of ‘our’ training and, with the help of the trainer, it was decided what things would be most beneficial for me. The list went something like this:
Picking up things that I drop eg: keys, coins, pens, purse, earrings etc
Load and unload the washing machine and the tumble dryer
Fetch the newspaper and the post from the front door
Opening and closing of doors
Bring the telephone when it rings and when I have need for it
Finding the remote control, as husband thinks he can use it more proficiently and hides it.
Assisting me with dressing and undressing
Our first task was ‘Socialisation’ for example; meeting and greet people, people with high visibility jackets, going into and out of enclosed lifts, glass lifts, public places that had different flooring and sounds, getting on and off a tram to name but a few. With me being in a wheelchair they taught me how to get off a pavement backwards and leave the dog on the pavement, a simple thing but extremely necessary for safety.
Training was done at our home, at the Training Centre, and out in public places between sessions, you would carry on ‘practicing’.
At this time, the average time for qualification was anything between 8 and 12 months, as Sadie had attitude she qualified in 5 months.
At the beginning of 2001 we decided that Sadie, our Cocker Spaniel was ready to be introduced to another dog member of our household – the question was what Breed as we have always had ‘Second Career’ dogs.
Sadie, it has to be said, was a snob. She would look down her nose at any other dog we met. That was until we crossed paths with a Vizsla. We were entering the Vet’s as the Vizsla and his owners were exiting. Sadie fluttered her eyelashes, waggled her little bottom and swished her tail in a matter most unbecoming.
This was when we started to trawl through the internet for more information. Sadie was a qualified Support Dog, and we attended Crufts every year to help out on their stand. On arrival at the Hungarian Viszla stand on ‘Discover Dogs’, Sadie duly went into her ‘tart’ behaviour. This was when we made the final decision that a Viszla would be out new house mate.
We contacted Hungarian Vizsla Welfare and went through all the processes. We received the marvellous news of our acceptance between Christmas and New Year of that year.
We were expecting a 12 to 18 month wait but this was not to be as Mazey arrived February 2nd which was, in fact, Chinese New Year.
Mazey was found, by Vizsla Welfare, at Battersea Dog and Cat Home, and needed time and patience to get over her trauma, it was a year or so later we officially began our training to become my subsequent Support dog. With Sadie’s help she took to it with gusto.
By this time I was in need of extra tasks on top of the ones Sadie undertook,
Mazey still helps me to dress and undress but can actually undress me in half the time my Husband can and with half the bother! Mazey also ferries medication (inside a special container) between my Husband or Carer to me in another room.
Her most demanding task, I think, is: if I fall from my wheelchair, I am unable to breath properly, my airways are restricted, Mazey will help me into a sitting position, wait until I am comfortable, and if I am alone in the house, will leave the house and go to other houses in the Close where I live and get some help.
At the end of each training session we both headed off to bed as we were tired out with the constant concentration. Mazey qualified in just 6 ½ months – this is amazing considering all that she has been through.
Since qualifying Mazey has made tremendous progress and has become a great ambassador for the Charity.
Together we have been the length and breadth of the country, travelled in a Landau on the promenade at Blackpool to see the lights, ascended to the top of the Tower and over the glass floor. Thoroughly enjoying a ride on a Big Wheel, accompanying me to the theatre on many occasions not to mention the visits to the Doctor, Dentist, and Hospital not forgetting the many courses I attend.
In short Mazey is my friend, my confidante, and my life, I couldn’t do the things I do without her. Not only that people stop and talk to me – strange but true – I was invisible until I had a dog by my side.
One thing that hasn’t changed within the Charity is the love, dedication and total commitment of the Charity towards all of its dogs and Clients.
There are several ways you can support the charity, and not just by adopting or fostering a Vizsla.