Assistance Dog Bindi has made a world of difference to Wellington-based author Helen Fletcher.
Helen suffers from multiple auto-immune disorders which affect her in a range of different ways, as well as a sleep disorder where she can often cause significant injury to herself.
“A friend watched a documentary about Assistance Dogs and at the time I’d just failed every treatment option for my sleeping disorder. I didn’t know what to do and I was injuring myself quite badly in my sleep. It was my friend who said why don’t you look into this, because potentially a dog could help you. Once I looked into it I discovered that a dog could help me with all my medical conditions, not just the sleep disorder.”
Helen was experiencing multiple falls and had to walk with a stick, but now Bindi provides the support she needs. With the sleep disorder, Helen had given herself a head injury and was forever waking up with large bruises, but now Bindi simply lies on her legs so she doesn’t get out of bed.
“One of the things that has happened since getting her is I randomly get this condition where I go blind for 15-20 minutes - that would have been absolutely terrifying without Bindi. When I was first matched with Bindi, the ADNZT instructor taught her some guiding, so if I give her the command, she’ll take me somewhere safe where I can wait it out. She makes me so much more confident to leave the house. I was struggling to go out a bit because I was afraid of falling and all the things that could happen.
Bindi has also figured out on her own how to recognise when my blood pressure is dropping, so she’ll give me an alert when I’m likely to pass out. I fell over at home the other day and she wasn’t quite sure what to do, so she did all the tasks she knows how, and when I was still sitting there dizzy, she just put her paw in my hand for comfort.”
Bindi has become a close companion, especially during Covid-19 lockdown when Helen spent 12 weeks at home alone due to being immune-compromised, during which time Bindi rescued Helen from a fall.
Having an Assistance Dog gives Helen so much more independence and mental space to live a more normal life, as she writes children’s and young adult books, teaches creative writing and takes Bindi to storytime at the local children’s bookshop.
“I don’t know if people understand the difference an assistance dog can make, not just to the people themselves, but their families. It’s a huge relief for my family and friends to know that I’m safe, and I know that’s the same for children with autism. Donating just $5 can give so much to the families of children with disabilities” .