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‘The dog that saved my life’- Woman owes the world to canine companion

PUBLISHED: 17:01 03 June 2020 | UPDATED: 17:54 03 June 2020

Louise Rafferty from Fakenham with Canine Partners dog, Skye. Picture: Canine Partners

Louise Rafferty from Fakenham with Canine Partners dog, Skye. Picture: Canine Partners

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Dogs give love and companionship, and, as this partnership proves, can even save lives.

Louise Rafferty from Fakenham with Canine Partners dog, Skye. Picture: Canine PartnersLouise Rafferty from Fakenham with Canine Partners dog, Skye. Picture: Canine Partners

Louise Rafferty, 39, from Fakenham has cerebral palsy and has used a wheelchair for the past 26 years.

Miss Rafferty had hoped to become a teacher after studying maths in Norwich. But when that did not work out and she was made redundant from her job six years ago, she struggled with her mental health.

She said life was getting “scary” - her house was getting messy and things she dropped on the floor would stay there.

But Miss Rafferty said she did not want to reach out for help, worried she would become a nuisance.

Louise Rafferty from Fakenham with Canine Partners dog, Skye. Picture: Canine PartnersLouise Rafferty from Fakenham with Canine Partners dog, Skye. Picture: Canine Partners

She said: “I didn’t cope well with people in my house, so I tried to get by with help once a week.

“Sometimes I’d need to escape my own house. I could do it but needed to put my fingers in the hinge just to close the door, which was not very safe.”

She found herself unable to reach out to her family, who live 150 miles away.

Miss Rafferty said: “I’d often sit in silence as my friends talked around me, or get overwhelmed by the busyness of Tesco and leave before I’d even looked at the shelves.

“I could go all week without speaking to anyone and I was getting more isolated.”

But salvation came when assistance dog charity, Canine Partners, introduced her to her new best friend in September 2018.

Skye, a yellow labrador crossed with a golden retriever, transformed her life.

Miss Rafferty said: “Skye captured my heart that day and we have been inseparable ever since.”

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Skye is an assistance dog trained by the charity to help people living with disabilities, boosting their confidence and independence.

The dogs are taught a range of everyday tasks. Skye is able to open doors, fetch medicine, help the washing machine and answer the phone, and even take off Miss Rafferty’s socks.

“She is so affectionate. She loves a cuddle and she is the other half of me, we do the things the other can’t. I provide breakfast and dinner and she opens the doors”, she said.

Miss Rafferty said Skye had saved her life. She said: “I did not get as far as doing anything, but I thought about not wanting to be here anymore.”

“But, with Skye here, if I thought about it, I wouldn’t do it because I have her to look after. If she wasn’t around, I don’t think I would be either.”

Miss Rafferty has got her confidence back since meeting Skye.

She has been able to get back to school to help pupils with their reading, as well as going on a day trip to Wells alone and going away on holiday.

But the pair have had to make some adjustments to their lives during the coronavirus - the biggest change being that ‘kisses’ between dog and owner are not allowed.

“During Covid-19, Skye is still my best friend. She makes me laugh, helps me out and holds me together,” she said.

Miss Rafferty is not self-isolating or shielding, but the fear of coronavirus forced the pair into an early lockdown.

She said: “The panic before the lockdown was worse. Skye and I would go to our normal places for our shop or whatever and we were suddenly invisible.

“Places were so crowded that we had no space to do what we needed - I would get nudged or Skye would be hit by a trolley.

“We were fine, but it meant we were effectively forced into lockdown before everyone else because it didn’t feel safe and I was concerned about Skye getting hurt or frightened. I felt crowded out.

“When it gets unfamiliar she gets on her guard and I don’t want her to be scared, so it just got easier to stay at home.”

The pair are now looking forward to a bright, waggy future, full of adventures to who knows where.


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