MY LIFE IN HIS PAWS

My name is wendy hilling. I suffer with a very rare skin condition called dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa recessive.
It means my skin inside and outside my body blisters and tears at the slightest knock.
As my condition worsened I found it difficult to open doors, use the cash machine, dress, undress. I applied for a canine partner to assist me.
It was decided I should train my own puppy so it would learn at an early age not to knock me.
Edward came into my life at 9 weeks old. A snowball on legs, a bundle of fun.

I worked really hard to train him, sometimes when I was very ill and the pain was bad I struggled to teach him. He has never let me down.
My Husband is my carer and Edward gives him time off as my dog is capable of doing so much to give me independence.
My Husband used to stay awake at night while I slept as I can stop breathing. One night when Edward was about 10 months old Peter fell asleep, I stopped breathing and Edward woke my Husband up. I was so scared. I thought I was going to die.
Edward has proved to be so reliable at waking Peter that we now rely on him for my life. I know he will wake peter if needed. He is paid 30 a week by the government, saving them over 29,000 a year.
I have fulfilled a lifelong ambition to go to art college, I would not have been able to cope there without Edward. I found if I took Peter people, treated me different. I have exhibited and sold my paintings.
I owe Edward so much, after all
I hold his lead, he holds my heart.

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I was born with a rare skin condition Epidermolysis Bullosa Recessive Dystrophic. My skin from the waist down was blistered and torn, what was left of it. I could not be picked up and cuddled; it removed too much skin if anyone touched me. I was kept in a cotton wool crib. Pain was life. I had to learn to walk on blistered feet and even clothes took off my skin. My brave Mother made all my clothes so they did not rub. When I was 6 months old a Nurse turned me over in hospital, only to find she had left a hand print on my ribs. I was over 20 when the scar healed.
I tried to go to a local school but one day in the playground a boy pushed me over and stood on my hands. He would not get off so I pulled them from under his feet; I had no skin left on my hands, front or back.
It was then decided that I would have to go away to boarding school in Kent. I hated it. They had no animals there.
We had a dog at home and I was devastated to find I was parted from him. He was called Sammy and I taught him to walk beside me without wearing a lead as my hands were too sore to hold him. He was to be my best friend. I spent all my holidays with him. I found it hard to mix with other children because of my skin. Children can be very cruel and say what they think-not always good things.
I left school at 16 and was told I would never work-I went for an interview with BT and became an operator. Wearing the headset took skin off of my ears; I was so determined to buy a pony that I just put up with the pain.
One thing I learnt was to keep going. No pain-no gain.
Everything hurt. Walking, eating,sleeping-even the pillows took skin off of my ears. I later got married, this was not to last and did not do my self esteem any good at all. I went from being outgoing and full of fun to being introvert and scared to go out.
In 1991 I met and married the man of my dreams.
In 1993 my throat became so scarred and small that Peter had to stop work to care for me. Internally things had begun to get very bad as well.
I hated hospitals and dreaded every appointment. I shut my ears to what they would say and as a consequence my hands and throat became a nightmare to live with.
Already painful, my hands were closing fast. I began to find it harder and harder to pick up or grip things. I found it difficult to open doors and use locks.
My oesophagus became scarred by acid which came up every time I bent over to pick up things. My balance was bad and I held onto Peter to walk. I would not go out on my own at all. The pressure on Peter was tremendous. He was constantly on call. He would care for me without a break.
I was on the internet one day when I saw that Canine Partners were training dogs to help people who could not use their hands very well. I rang and got an interview with the training centre in Sussex.
I found that the dogs I met were too bouncy for me. The dogs were not bad dogs at all; it is just that my skin is more fragile than a butterflys wing.
I went home and after a while I had a call from Andy Cook, head of operations and he decided that I should train my own puppy, under the watchful eye of one of their trainers.
It was a decision that was to change my life. Edward arrived in the January of 2007 at 9 weeks old. He was a bundle of life and always on the go. He took to the training so well. He made me laugh. We were best friends form the word go.
I began to change. Like a butterfly I was emerging out of my shell. I found a new confidence in training Teddy and showing him off. People would ask all about him and I never once thought about my skin and what they were thinking.
I suddenly realised that nothing and nobody mattered, what they thought was up to them.
Here I was with a puppy wearing a purple jacket and as proud as I could be.
We graduated when he was 18 months old.
I was so happy that day, I could hardly speak I was so overcome.
Teddy was to be the making of me. At last I did not worry about going to hospital anymore. I am so wrapped up in him and his well being I don�t worry like I used to.
The help he gives me is a bonus. His companionship and his loyalty are the best thing about having him. He is always there for me.
I have reduced my painkillers since having him. When the pain is very bad, I cuddle up to him or he gets a toy as if to say �come on Mum, play and don�t think about it”
We were to find an added bonus to having Edward apart from helping with the washing.undressing, getting help, opening and closing doors, using the cash machine.
Before Edward came into our lives my Husband Peter had to stay awake while I slept. One night when Edward was about 10 months old Peter accidently fell asleep and I stopped breathing. Within seconds Edward woke Peters up by pulling his pillow from under his head. At first we thought this was a one off but as time went on Edward was awake the instant I stopped breathing. Slowly we decided to trust him more and more and now Peter goes off to sleep knowing that Edward will wake him if I am in trouble.
Peter is no longer very tired all day. while we are out and about it is Edward and not my Husband who is my carer. Edward has made our lives complete.
I had always wanted to go to art College but when I took Peter along as a carer I found people kept away from me. I was so upset that I gave up going.
Now I take Edward along and he watches loo doors and picks things up if I drop them People love to have Edward there and they interact with both of us. I am so proud to take him with me. I have now exhibited my paintings and even sold some of them!!!!!!
One day on the way home from art on the bus, laden with art books etc, Edward stopped the bus at the beach. As we passed the beach the bus stopped and the driver turned to me and said �do you want this stop love� I said �no�
�Well your dog pressed the button � he said!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
You can see that Edward has a sense of humour.
I am not allowed to cry as it closes my throat altogether and I have to go into hospital and be put on a drip until it opens again. Sometimes it is very hard not to get upset so I just bury my face in his fur and it all falls away. After all, nothing can be that bad as long as I have Edward.
He even stays in hospital with me as it would make my throat close if I get upset at being parted from him. The Nurses have also found that he is the best one to undress me as he causes less trauma when he undresses me. No one is as gentle as he is.
I used to dread going shopping and had to go when the shops were quiet or people would bang into me and take my skin off with their bags or trolleys. Now I can go anytime as they give Edward more room and it protects me.
One day last November, Peter was in the garage and I started to choke. I gripped the sink and Edward let himself out into the conservatory and into the garden, barking his head off til Peter came in from the garage to help me. I was terrified I was going to die.
In recognition of his valued work, Edward is paid �30 a week by the Government. He saves them over �29,000 a year.
I love Edward more than I ever thought I could. With him I can fly, if he thinks I am ok – I am ok.
If Edward never worked again I could never part with him. I love him more than life itself.
I hold his lead he holds my heart.

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