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photo courtesy of Megan and Ruby

Megan Rose Taylor is one of our favourite people. Her smile is infectious. Her determination is inspiring. Her candour is refreshing and her resilience is motivational.

One moment Megan was living life like any 15 year old and the next she was a teenager learning to live with a head injury that caused her to faint up to 50 times a day, without warning. That tends to change life just a wee bit.

Megan began the process of learning how to balance risk with simply living. It impacted everything, school, work, shopping, simply taking a walk or catching the underground (subway) became an exercise in managing risk and trusting complete strangers to help or protect her when she would unexpectedly collapse anywhere at any time.

Of course there were the kind people who did their best to assist. And then there were the “others”, those that walked by or even worse spat at her or judged her to be an addict or intoxicated without bothering to stop and see (and I have to ask, even if that were the case, why would you not stop and help?! A topic for another time). Her parents and friends were concerned, but Megan refused to be treated like some china doll.

Enter Ruby. The puppy that started out as a “simple companion” has become so much more. Megan shares how Ruby has become her companion to achieve independence again. My mother seems to be right when she says sometimes the greatest gifts come in small packages.

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photo courtesy of Megan and Ruby

When I reached for a hand, I found your paw.

The little dog who changed my life forever.

My name is Megan and I am 21 years old. I first met the dog who would go on to change my life forever back in 2010, whilst visiting the Snowdonia National Park with my family.

We stayed in the guest house on a working farm. It didn’t take me long to make friends with the resident sheep dog, Bonnie, and her litter of 8 week old puppies. We were never planning on getting a dog, but found ourselves coming home with a beautiful Border Collie / Kelpie puppy, who we later named Ruby.

We had no idea back then just how important this tiny pup would become, when a year later I would suffer a severe head injury, and be left with a permanent disability.

After fainting during a Remembrance Sunday parade in 2011, I hit my head on the curb behind me and my skull was fractured in three places. Five years since this accident I now suffer with a number of cardiac, neurological, and vestibular disabilities. This causes me to: faint on a regular basis, lose my balance, have frequent dizzy spells, episodic blindness, and unilateral profound hearing loss.

Ruby, was just 1 year old at the time of my accident, and was a great comfort to me in the recovery process. She was calm, gentle, and never failed to make me smile; even though I was in immense pain.

After realising just how much comfort and strength she gave me with her presence alone, I decided to become a volunteer with Pets As Therapy so that Ruby could help others in need too.

I had to wait until my 18th birthday to become a volunteer due to the age restrictions, and Ruby was four years old when I was finally old enough! We began visiting a local nursing home immediately after my 18th birthday, bringing joy and friendship to hundreds of people.

Ruby and I still enjoy our visits today, and have been volunteering for three years now. As well as spreading joy in our local community, Ruby also has a brand new job as my disability Assistance Dog. She helps me to do things that are difficult or unsafe because of my medical conditions.

In March 2016, Ruby and I were accepted as clients with Dog A.I.D (Assistance In Disability). Dog A.I.D are a unique UK charity, who with the help of volunteer trainers, enable adults with disabilities to train their own pet dogs, of any breed or cross, into registered Assistance Dogs.

Ruby joined the scheme aged 5, so already had a good understanding of basic obedience. She completed her training in just 13 months, qualifying as my Assistance Dog on the 19th April 2017.

Ruby has halved the amount of dizzy spells I have, by learning to pick things up for me and untie my shoe laces; so that I no longer need to bend down. Thanks to Ruby, I no longer risk fainting into oncoming traffic when waiting to cross the road as I am able to stay back whilst she presses the crossing button for me with her nose.

Ruby has also learnt how to use her very own ‘K9 phone’ to call for help when I have fainted; a potentially life-saving action!

She activates the phone by pressing a button worn on my wrist with her nose. Once activated, a text message is sent to my emergency contacts with my current GPS location.

A voice alarm is also triggered on my phone, to reassure concerned members of the public. This alarm makes it very clear that I have a genuine medical condition, and am not just ‘another drunk teenager!’ as I am sadly often mistaken for.

If my emergency contacts do not hear back from me within 5 minutes of receiving the alert, this means I am still unconscious or injured, and they are able to send help to my location immediately. Ruby is able to answer the front door for me when paramedics arrive.

Previously, if I were to injure myself at home it may be several hours until anyone found me. Thanks to Ruby, I am reassured knowing that help will always come when I need it. I am finally safe in my own home.

Anyone who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks is clearly mistaken!

Ruby amazes and inspires me every single day. To learn all of that in just 13 months at the age of 5 is truly remarkable. Anyone who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks is clearly mistaken!

As well as keeping me safe and spreading joy in our local community, Ruby and I spend a lot of time having fun together. We love going for long walks, and hiking in the British countryside. As well as learning fun new tricks, and playing agility in our garden.

With Ruby by my side I am proud. I am independent. And I am not ashamed of my disability anymore.

Ruby gives me a reason and a purpose to get up each day, and live life to the fullest. With Ruby by my side I have climbed mountains. I have graduated from university. And I have learnt that it’s okay to ask for help.

With Ruby by my side I am proud. I am independent. And I am not ashamed of my disability anymore.

I believe that her outstanding acts of devotion truly embody the contribution that animals make to peoples’ lives. I am forever thankful to have Ruby in my life, the little sheepdog from Wales.

Megan Rose Taylor ©2017

Take a moment to share a bit of a day with Ruby and Megan in the video below

Assistance and Service animals are unsung heroes – they are trained working dogs doing a very important job – they give the gift of independence at an otherwise unattainable level. And they give that gift unconditionally with love and kindness everyday all day.

So make sure you check out Ruby’s FB page because in truth, we’ve barely touched the surface.  We can’t leave out her K9 parkour skills, her talent for abstract painting and her educational contributions. Here is a link to a video Megan has done to help explain the misconceptions about assistance dogs and their roles in the lives of their people.

And please remember, when you see an Assistance or Service animal at work, let them work and treat their people with kindness and respect you’d appreciate too.

 

©2017 JFries/Rise Like Air

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