Simon, 58, says that getting his Dogs for Good assistance dog, Axel, changed his life overnight.
Simon has an unknown neurological disease which spread through his body and as a result he uses a wheelchair to help him get around.
When he was a child, Simon’s ankles would break regularly and when he was 17 years old he had several operations and the doctors managed to get him walking again with the aid of full length calipers on his feet.
When he was in his late 20s he returned home one night with severe back pain.
Simon says: “I told my wife that my back was aching and the pain was horrific. It was like an explosion in my spine. I must have passed out because the next thing I knew I woke up in a hospital bed.
“That was when the doctors told me I was paralysed from the waist down. I was devastated. It was a huge blow because I was still so young and my life changed overnight.”
Prior to this Simon worked as an assistant golf professional, which included caddying for Anthony Higgins for a while.
Simon’s physical situation has had an impact on his personal relationships, too and his most recent relationship broke down just before the first lockdown in March 2020. As a result, he really struggled with social isolation and loneliness during the first seven months of the pandemic.
In 2019, he applied for an assistance dog from Dogs for Good and because he’d had dogs all his life, he knew the unconditional love that a four-legged friend can bring.
Dogs for Good receives 5,000 enquiries a year for its services and fortunately they were able to find the perfect match for Simon in the form of handsome yellow Labrador x golden retriever, Axel.
When Axel arrived about a month before the second lockdown everything instantly changed for the better. Simon says: “The first time I met Axel he was so affectionate and it just felt so good. I knew he was the perfect dog for me.
“I was thrilled to welcome him into my life, I’ll never forget the day he arrived, he just changed everything for me overnight.
“Having Axel in the second lockdown improved my life beyond measure, I suddenly found myself wanting to out and enjoy life and because I had Axe,l I met so many new people and made loads of friends.”
Every assistance dog is specially trained to help with practical tasks that many people with disabilities find difficult or impossible to do, such as opening and closing doors, helping with dressing and undressing, retrieving items such as mobile telephones or dropped items like keys or a bag, loading and emptying the washing machine, pressing a pedestrian crossing button and reaching up to shop-counters with items such as a wallet.
Simon says Axel is also the reason he gets out of bed every day.
Simon explains: “He goes everywhere with me now; hospital appointments, the pub, trips to Scotland and shopping. We are inseparable.”
“He’s the inspiration for me getting up in the morning, it’s as simple as that. Otherwise I don’t think I’d bother.
“He keeps me going and literally picks up anything I drop from my mobile phone to the TV control. He even picked up a packet of sausages in the supermarket for me recently!
“He astounds me every time he performs a task that I didn’t know he could do, but most importantly he’s my best friend.
“My outlook on life has changed since getting Axel and I am now getting out and about walking with him, we have a great life together.”