Assistance dog helping St Helens woman who suffers fainting attacks

Megan with her two dogs Ruby and Rowley
Megan with her two dogs Ruby and Rowley
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Megan Taylor, who was seriously injured after a fall when she was just 15 years of age, is being helped by the first dual Assistance Dog being trained by both Dog A.I.D. and Guide Dogs.


Megan, 21, who lives in Sutton, St Helens, now suffers fainting attacks which will affect her for the rest of her life, as well as periodically losing her sight.

Megan said: "In 2011 I unexpectedly fainted during a Remembrance Sunday service, falling backwards and hitting my head on the kerb behind me.

"Upon impact my skull fractured in multiple places, which triggered a malfunction to develop in my central nervous system.

"This complex neurological disorder causes me to continue fainting for the rest of my life, as well as episodically losing my sight; leaving me totally blind for short periods..

"It took over six years of invasive tests and failed treatments before eventually receiving my diagnosis and hearing the words "there is no cure".

"There was also severe damage to my balance system, and I was left with profound hearing loss to the left side.

"After my accident, I noticed that day-to-day tasks were becoming increasingly difficult, as I was unable to bend down without becoming light-headed or dizzy. I also felt vulnerable, as fainting attacks happened without warning, and I was unable to call for help.

"That's when I decided to train Ruby, my pet border collie/kelpie cross, to become my Assistance Dog. I did this with the help of Dog A.I.D (Assistance In Disability); a wonderful UK charity who enable people with disabilities to train their own Assistance Dogs, with the help of professional dog trainers who volunteer their time."

Ruby learnt how to retrieve dropped items, get things from low shelves, empty the washing machine, take off Megan's shoes, socks and trousers and push pedestrian crossing buttons.

She was also taught to use a special dog phone worn on Megan's wrist by pressing a button with her nose whenever she fainted. This alerted her emergency contacts that she needed help and showed them Megan's location.

Megan added: "Ruby gave me back my independence, and I am eternally grateful to her. Unfortunately her career was cut short when she was attacked by other dogs on four separate occasions throughout 2017.

"The attacks completely destroyed her confidence and she was no longer happy when working in public.

"So I made the very difficult decision to retire her from work. I was completely devastated to be losing my independence once more, but Ruby's welfare and happiness came first.

"Keen to get my life back on track, I decided to join the Guide Dogs waiting list for a successor dog who could guide me safely around obstacles as well as completing training with Dog A.I.D to assist with my physical and medical disabilities like Ruby had done."

This would be the first time that Dog A.I.D and Guide Dogs had worked together in this way to train a dog for someone with multiple disabilities.

In July this year Megan received a phone call from the Guide Dogs team in London, informing her that they had found a match.

The following week she travelled to London with her grandparents to meet a gorgeous 21 month old black labrador named Rowley, and went on a first guided walk together.

"Walking with Rowley felt amazing," said Megan. "I didn't need to focus so much on keeping my balance or walking in a straight line, as the forward momentum he provided kept me upright and I was able to follow his movements to stay oriented.

"I usually find it difficult to pinpoint the exact location of obstacles I can see ahead due to dizziness when walking, meaning I bump into things that were closer than I had thought.

"But Rowley was able to guide me safely around these obstacles and help me find my way. I can't describe how wonderful that felt!"

After being successfully introduced to Ruby, who would still be her pet dog, Rowley arrived in St Helens to live with Megan in August so that training together could take place and they qualified three weeks late..

Rowley is now completing his training with Dog A.I.D to become a Dual Purpose Assistance Dog, and is due to qualify by Christmas.

Megan added: "So far he has learnt how to activate pedestrian crossing buttons, pick up dropped items, untie my shoe laces, remove my socks, empty the washing machine and phone for help in an emergency.

"Ruby is a tough act to follow, but Rowley is doing an excellent job so far.

"He has also helped Ruby in many ways. She is growing in confidence each day and is now enjoying meeting new dogs again, which is just wonderful to see.

"I owe everything to these dogs. They are my best friends, my lifeline and my independence."

Megan is currently also taking part in a fund-raising challenge by riding a specially adapted disability bike 2,018 miles and you can support her at https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/ridetheyear

For more information on the work done by Dog A.I.D visit www.dogaid.org.uk