Dogs for Good
Michelle Maughan and Tyke
Michelle Maughan (28) once had a phobia of dogs. This all changed in March 2008, when she was introduced to ‘Tyke.’
At a time when Michelle felt lacking in purpose and motivation, struggling to find her self-worth, a chance encounter with an existing Dogs for Good partnership opened an unexpected door. After learning more about the charity, who train assistance dogs to help children and adults with disabilities, Michelle decided to make an application.
Diagnosed with MS some years ago, she had reached crisis point and was prepared to try anything that might improve her deteriorating quality of life.
Fast forward through the application, matching and training process, and Michelle’s life has been totally transformed by the relationship she shares with chocolate Labrador, Tyke.
‘He’s my best friend, constant companion and fiercest protector.’
Tyke plays an invaluable and integral role in Michelle’s now very busy, active and fun-filled life.
From the day this specially trained assistance dog arrived, he began to help Michelle manage her everyday life;
- opening and closing doors
- retrieving dropped objects
- fetching named items (like a phone, wallet or keys)
- operating light switches and access buttons
- helping Michelle dress and undress
- putting items in the bin
Along with this practical support, Tyke’s presence helped Michelle develop a newfound confidence and ability to face life head on. In his company, Michelle felt at ease travelling to new places and meeting new people. If she fell or got stuck somewhere, she could now send Tyke to collect a phone or bark to attract attention. With his protection, she was able to resume the life she thought MS had robbed her of for good.
Tyke helped Michelle feel less isolated and lonely, something she had struggled with since her diagnosis.
‘He provides the priceless gift of companionship and unconditional love.’
Michelle is a self-confessed shopaholic and has found her perfect match with Tyke, who loves nothing better than keeping her company on the bus to town, and meeting new people in busy shops and cafes. Tyke picks up items she’s dropped (often noticing this on occasions when Michelle doesn’t) and can operate access buttons to shops and lifts, leaving Michelle free to bargain spot.
With Tyke’s help, Michelle now visits the gym weekly, eats out regularly, attends work functions alone and has built a fantastic social life thanks to round the clock support from her canine carer. Michelle loves answering questions from strangers, who stop her to ask her why Tyke wears a special yellow vest. Rather than finding this annoying, she welcomes the interest in her assistance dog as a relief from intrusive queries about her disability.
“I no longer feel defined by being a wheelchair user. Tyke breaks down barriers, allowing people to see me for who I am.”
At home, Tyke is constantly at Michelle’s side, so she no longer needs to ask for constant help from husband Alastair. Even when transferring from her wheelchair to the toilet, Tyke stays close by, recognizing the potential risk of a fall. Faithful Tyke has also been known to make checks on Michelle, opening the bathroom door if necessary to reassure himself she’s safe. Michelle jokes that she no longer has any privacy, but in truth, she’s now able to spend more time alone, confident that Tyke will be there if she needs help.
Michelle can’t speak highly enough of her assistance dog;
‘The love we share is limitless and priceless. Tyke makes me, my friends and family laugh every day, lifting our spirits even when thing are tough. My quality of life has increased beyond anything I ever dreamed.’
Inspired by her own fantastic partnership, Michelle has become a volunteer at Dogs for Good. She and Tyke are wonderful ambassadors for the charity, helping to raise both awareness and funds so that more children and adults can benefit from an assistance dog.
“Dogs for the Disabled brought Tyke into my life – a life which I am able to enjoy independently and fully with his help. If he hadn’t come along when he did, I may not be here today – it’s really that simple. I’m passionate about this charity and I want more people with disabilities to experience what I have with Tyke. It’s truly life-changing.”
To find out more about Dogs for Good, visit www.dogsforgood.org.