Bobbie Hubbard-Marks, a former nurse paralysed in a fall, talks about how her support dog Poppy has made her life worth living again.

"It’s a bit of cliché to say that my support dog Poppy has transformed my life. But it happens to be true, and I just don’t know what I’d do without her.

I was always a very active person. I worked in nursing for over 33 years, in a career that included time spent as a combat and medical assistant technician. Then I volunteered to provide medical support during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.But then, just after I’d retired, and while on holiday in Bulgaria with my partner Jenny, my life was turned upside down. I had a serious fall and was left permanently paralysed from the waist down.

Understandably having lived such an active life, caring and supporting others, I felt that my world was in tatters. Even so, despite such a devastating prognosis and being in great pain, I managed to remain positive despite all the hospital stays and operations that followed.

Me and Jenny agreed that we’d like to get a pet dog, and so it was that Poppy, a four-month-old black Labrador, bounced into our lives.  A couple of months later, I heard about the work of the charity Support Dogs and how their disability programme can train a pet dog to become their registered assistance dog.  I got in touch and we were assessed, and after almost a year of training Poppy graduated as my disability assistance dog in November 2014.

Support Dogs are an amazing charity. They are very understanding, and tailor the training to what people actually need, finding solutions for any problems. 

They have taken a little dog and turned her into a miracle walking beside me, and for that I am very grateful.

Now Poppy helps me in all sorts of ways, from opening doors and upboards, helping me to dress and undress, fetching things, picking things up and even loading the washing machine. She can also speak on command to attract attention and go for help if ever Bobbie needs it.

I would say to anyone who is thinking about getting help through Support Dogs to just do it. The training is hard work and takes a lot of time but it’s worth it and is so rewarding. They help you to rebuild your life, and in doing so it builds confidence. It’s a two-way thing; Poppy and I care for each other. She gives me a goal to get up for in the morning.

Without Poppy, I found that people didn’t talk to me; they talked about me, over my head as though I wasn’t there. Now with Poppy they talk to me. I’ve got independence again now and can go out on my own. I am a human being again. Whatever I need Poppy to do, she will do it. It’s as though she’s holding a bucket and saying ‘throw anything at me, I’ll catch it’.  She’s given me back my life."