​Canine Partners, and our Derby

4 February 2017


‘Canine Partners’ is a brilliant charity that trains dogs to do jobs that at first might seem pointless or just clever 'tricks', but for the people who can't do these things for themselves, these dogs change lives. 

You may have seen Derby at Stowe with our mum. When we were little, our Mum was crushed between two cars in a school car park. Our lives changed completely - instead of having a mother who looked after us, was very active and did loads, our Mummy suddenly couldn't look after us, walk or play, and was in pain all the time.

After several years Mum heard about Canine Partners. She applied and, eventually, along came Derby, a gorgeous very ‘waggy’ black Labrador with the most adorable eyes who seemed to love us just as much as we loved him. Mum and Derby were partnered and we had a new member of the family. We had to ignore him completely for six months though, so he knew that Mum was in charge and completely focused on her - only when she said the words, “say hello”, did he wag his tail and greet everyone – it is amazing how little you can say to make a dog wag so much!

It was really hard not to cuddle and play with him, but worth it because together Derby and Mum became part of the family team; they were inseparable.

We saw them learn to do things that Mum had not dreamt of doing since her accident – unloading and reloading the washing machine, tidying things away, stripping beds, picking things up, carrying things around the house/garden, fetching us or giving us messages (Mum can't run to get us, so Derby learnt to carry messages in his mouth!)... and so much more. Our favourite 'jobs' were him waking us up and him getting his own food - he even put his own bowl in the sink.

Can you imagine what it must be like always having to have someone with you and having to ask for help all the time (even to get the phone or to take your shoes/socks off)? Having Derby meant Mum could be on her own again. There was one day that Mum went out completely on her own for the first time in ten years; because Derby was there to help her do the things she couldn’t do on her own. He also meant that we didn't have to stay with, call or worry about Mum so much. We were all so much freer; Derby changed all of our lives.

Amazingly Derby also helped Mum with the pain - he told her when she had done too much, or when more pain was coming. This was amazing for us – seeing Mum in pain distressed all of us; it was unpredictable and often seemed unmanageable... until Derby started to help.

Last summer Mum found lumps in Derby's neck. He had lymphoma, but he was young, treatment worked and the lumps went away. Then, a few weeks ago, he suddenly got worse and we had to say goodbye - it was harder than we could have imagined. It was awful. Our lives changed again.

Mum is lost - she feels disabled and is completely reliant on people's help again. We can't describe how we all feel; Mum has lost her help now Derby has gone. What really helps though is that we know that (soon we hope) Mum will get another Canine Partner. There will never be another Derby, but we will get another dog to join our family team.

Here are two links so you can see what having Derby was like. The first is the last 10 minutes of an ITV programme (Britain's Favourite Dogs), and the second a fun film made for a fundraising event - do watch until the end.

A friend is raising money for Canine Partners in memory of our wonderful Derby - the dog who changed all our lives and showed us what was possible. We want to help.

We would be so grateful if you would give anything you feel able to, to help Canine Partners train and support more dogs to transform lives, as Derby did ours. You can contribute by clicking here.

Thank you.
Oscar, Phoebe and Fixy Hill