One night at our usual training class a lady, who had been training with us for a few weeks, stayed after the class and asked if I could help her train her dog to be an Assistance Dog. She explained she had a mental illness that caused her physical and mental problems and she was convinced her dog would be able to help her.

Cautiously I agreed and started researching her illness, which was probably one of the most complex and poorly understood mental health conditions she could have had. Basically it caused her balance problems, dreadful nightmares from which she awoke screaming, she wasn’t allowed out on her own because she would forget where she was and how to get home, anxieties and depression. Not surprisingly, she had very low confidence levels and tended to stay at home most of the time, not wanting to be a burden on her family and friends.

Together we started training her dog, Darwin, and slowly I could see changes happening.

She started going out more, because she felt more confident with him. She used him to lean on if she felt wobbly, he picked things up if she dropped something, rather than previously bending down for it herself and invariably falling over. If she did fall he would stand and allow her to use him to get back up again.

She says he opened her world up for her again.