“She’s brought happiness to the whole family; we’ve regained the happiness we had before Richard had his stroke”

Richard and Jude, who featured in a moving episode of BBC 1 DIY SOS in 2015, now feel their family’s life is complete since the arrival last year of Maggie, Richard’s Dogs for Good assistance dog.

“She’s perfect”, says Richard, “I’m so proud to go out with her;” while Jude says “She’s brought happiness to the whole family; in fact we’ve regained the happiness we had before Richard had his stroke”.

In 2012, two weeks after completing the Edinburgh marathon, Richard suffered a devastating brain stem stroke. He was put into an induced coma and for nine months endured ‘locked-in’ syndrome, aware of everything that was going on but unable to move or communicate. Richard still has very limited movement and speech, but he has regained some use of his right arm and leg.

Being a father again

Supported by Maggie, Richard has achieved his desire to ‘be a father again’: he takes his sons to the park and picks them up from school. He can go to the shops by himself and has travelled from Yorkshire by train to visit his mum in Leicester, with only Maggie by his side. “He’d never have gone out as much before she arrived, he enjoys being out with her, they’re a real partnership” comments Jude. “He loves the interaction with people who want to find out more about Maggie’s role in his life,” she adds.

“Maggie has helped Richard in so many ways,” explains Jude.  “From that morning greeting which ensures a good start to his day, she improves his mood and provides him with companionship when we’re all out of the house. He has a responsibility towards Maggie, feeding and walking her, and he takes pride and pleasure in that.  Maggie has reduced Richard’s frustration at his disability by giving him independence and confidence. It’s a joy to see the bond between them, it’s absolutely phenomenal,” says Jude.

Benefiting the whole family

The Maggie effect doesn’t stop with Richard.  “Maggie has given me some respite too,” comments Jude, “to know she’s there to help him eases the burden on me too. I can have some time to myself, happy and confident they’re safe out together.”

The boys, Harry (11) Oscar (9) and Archie (6) have also benefited from Maggie’s fun-loving, affectionate personality. “Oscar struggled emotionally most with Richard’s illness,” explains Jude.  “Maggie has brought him out of himself, he’s a much happier child and calmer now. He used to push me away – I think he was frightened of getting hurt again. Maggie gave him someone dependable and uncomplicated to love and he’s now much more affectionate with us.”

Oscar himself says, “She’s cute and she’s my best friend.  It’s such fun to be able to go to the park again with Dad – and she doesn’t burst my football!”