When I was 11 years old I was diagnosed with a very painful, rare and debilitating condition called complex regional pain syndrome and a neurological disease called dystonia which contorts my body into awkward and painful positions from muscle spasms, leaving me as a full-time wheelchair user with limited mobility and many other comorbidities. I lost the life that I knew as a young, happy and healthy girl needing constant care, and many hospitalizations and surgery. I had given up all hope and didn’t feel I wanted to live anymore. That was until I met Barnabus. ; The charity Canine Partners matched me with my handsome chocolate Labrador called in 2013 and since that moment we have been inseparable. He is gentle and loving, with a dash of cheeky excitement – he was ‘my Barnabus’ right from the moment I met him. It was a very strange feeling actually enjoying asking to have something picked up off the floor. For the first time in years, I didn’t feel that horrible pang of guilt and frustration like I normally did. I felt like he actually wanted to be around me, not just because he had to be, to care for me like I sometimes thought my family and carers did.
In Barnabus’ eyes, I am not disabled, a workload or a burden. I am Rosie, someone who now has a life of independence, responsibility and happiness because of him. Someone he is very happy to love. I feel comforted and safe with Barnabus by my side and knew from the very first time we that my life would never be the same again….
Barnabus is my adoring, caring, funny, fluffy shadow. He helps me so much. Besides picking up anything I drop and giving it back to me, he also opens and closes doors, drawers and windows; he helps me dress/undress; gets my medications; wipes the wet or dirty floor with a cloth; gets items off a shop shelf; brings me the phone when it rings; undoes my footstraps on my wheelchair and takes off my socks and shoes. He flushes the toilet; brings me anything I ask him to; puts things away for me and uses the ATM machine to name a few. This enables me to be much more independent and gives my family peace of mind that I will be okay when I’m on my own.
Barnabus also alerts me to my spasms and then holds me down to stop me hurting myself when I have them, something he hasn’t been trained to do but does instinctively. Barnabus and I both love training for new tasks and he learns so quickly that he’s a real pleasure to teach.
Helping me with day to day living isn’t really work to him. He sees it all as a big fun game, enjoying all of it, and loves his tasty treat and extra tickles behind his ears when he’s finished a task. He gets extra excited doing our weekly food shop in Sainsbury’s, and seems to of memorised my shopping list, knowing exactly what items are needed next, much to the amazement of stunned onlookers! After he’s finished helping out , he carries his reward of a fresh crunchy carrot out through the shop in his mouth, proud as punch and ready to eat it when we get to the van. All these sorts of tasks would mean extra pain, fatigue and frustration as I couldn’t do them by myself before Barney and I were partnered, but now it is so much easier and is such as joy to see him so happy to help, giving me my independence and freedom back.
Barney’s physical help has completed changed my life for the better, but emotionally and mentally he has allowed me to me again. He gives me strength, confidence and happiness. Cuddling into me when I’m extra poorly and struggling more. We are always there for each other no matter what and both care so much for each other. He is my rock and I am his forever mum, loving him unconditionally.
Sadly when he was 5 years old, Barnabus got his first lot of cancer. Even though he was poorly, he took all his treatment and surgery in his stride. He was very brave and we had not been separated since we were first partnered together, so staying at the vets after recovering from his surgery was a different experience for Barnabus and was hard for both of us. As Barnabus had a tumour removed from his face, he now has a little wonky nose and curled lip, but in my opinion it makes him all the more cuter and I love him even more. He has survived cancer a few times now and has been courageous every time. Seeing how my boy has fearlessly gone through everything and come out the other side, still with a huge lust for life and love for his work, encourages me greatly to continue to be strong living with my chronic illnesses and disabilities.
We are a true partnership and I can’t thank Barnabus enough for transforming my life. I am so grateful to him and as he has enhanced my life so greatly, Barnabus is hoping to soon become a Pets as therapy dog as well as my assistance dog to help other people too. He is such a happy boy and loves to spread his happiness and love to everyone he meets. He really is my wonderful, devoted superdog.