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LLRCommunity Foundation connects a local donor with Canine Partners

Taking bank cards out of ATM’s, taking socks off and loading the washing machine are just a few of the surprising tasks that assistance dogs do to help their owners.

It takes 18 months of training for the dogs to become fully-fledged assistance dogs. Local donor, Helen Murphy funded the purchase and initial training for this golden Labrador who she decided to name Murphy. Helen set up a fund in 2012 with Leicestershire and Rutland Community Foundation in memory of her late husband Neil Murphy who had a love of all animals but especially dogs.

The Neil Murphy Animal Welfare Fund has supported horse, cat and dog charities, and Helen has seen first-hand the remarkable dogs that Canine Partners train at their Midlands Training Centre in Osgathorpe, Leicestershire, and has sponsored two more puppies, naming them ‘Spud’ and ‘Milo.’

Murphy was partnered with David in May 2017, and at a partnership event in 2018 Helen met David and they have been friends ever since. As they introduced themselves; David realised that Murphy’s training had been funded by Helen. He grasped her hand, his eyes shining as he expressed what it meant to him to have Murphy. They have stayed in touch since, exchanging emails and photos. Helen said: “They clearly have a lovely partnership, Murphy is doing a fantastic job and is well loved.

“It’s amazing what these dogs can do. At the supermarket, the dogs can take items off the shelf and put them into the trolley and can do contactless card payment.

“I have seen the dogs take their feeding bowl out of the cupboard, eat their dinner, then put their bowl away when they’ve finished.”

David has Sporadic Inclusion Body Myositis (sIBM), which is a chronic neuro muscular atrophy. He explains: “The muscles in my arms, legs, shoulders and hands progressively waste to the point where I can no longer use them. The throat muscles are also compromised, which brings in difficulty with swallowing. The timing and the worst effects of the disease vary from patient to patient, but usually result in severe disability and care dependency.

“sIBM erodes physical ability slowly but surely. At first every day things such as walking up steps, reaching for things, dressing and undressing, bathing and going to the toilet become difficult. As the disease progresses, these things become impossible without assistance. Such things hit me psychologically as well as physically. My muscles continue to waste and increasingly my body becomes a prisoner to gravity, heavy and immobile.

“Murphy can’t assist me in all areas of my disability, but what he can do is brilliant. Murphy assists me with picking things up when I can’t reach them, for example the daily post, remote controls and light switches. He opens doors for me so I can get about the bungalow and outside in my wheelchair. He does them with such care and enthusiasm. One of the most remarkable things he does is the gentle lifting of my arms should they fall from the side of my wheelchair or bed.

“I will not be the only partner to mention that special intuition that my canine partner has in just knowing when the dark grey cloud of depression visits. He lifts me back out of this by a careful touch of his nose to my hand. He offers me his paw and he gives me a kiss – job done.

“Having Murphy with me today is a great privilege. He and I are together throughout the day and I no longer have to worry if I drop things, which is very frequent due to my very limited mobility. Murphy is always there to pass me my glasses, pick up the post or 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 me my magazines, picking up things that may have dropped off my lap, and best of all him simply resting his head upon my lap as we gently watch the day go by.

“Lesley and I love to 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 before once again eagerly accepting his assistance dog duties. Murphy will never cease to amaze us.

Sara Read at Canine Partners said: “Murphy really does make his life better in so many ways.”

All of Helen’s family are delighted to receive the regular photographs and updates from David. Helen said:

“If you give money to charity you don’t usually see where it has gone. It’s good to see that the money has been well spent and has made a tangible difference.”

If you would like to support local causes by setting up a fund with Leicestershire and Rutland Community Foundation please get in touch with Katy Green on 0116 262 4804 or email katy.green@llrcommunityfoundation.org.uk