A talk by Ruth Spurr

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Ruth Spurr talks about her assistance dog Willow

Ruth, who lives in Amersham, gave us a truly inspirational talk today. 

Speaking with passion and enthusiasm, the 24-year-old told us about the rare genetic disorders from which she suffers. These can cause all manner of problems including chronic pain, seizures, fainting and joint dislocation.

Accompanying Ruth while she spoke was her Bichon Frise cross, Willow. The two of them have been together since Willow was a puppy. 

Initially Willow was just a pet, but then Ruth discovered that disabled people can train their own dogs to become assistance dogs through the charity Dog A.I.D. (Assistance In Disability), and she was matched with her previous trainer who had since become a volunteer for the charity.

The pair were only half-way through teaching Willow to help Ruth with day-to-day tasks and help in an emergency when something happened that made local and national news. 

When she accidentally spilled boiling water down her legs, Ruth passed out. Willow then did something she hadn’t been trained to do: she found Ruth’s mobile phone in another room, and brought it to her. When Ruth regained consciousness she was immediately able to dial 999.

On a day-to-day basis, Willow helps with carrying items from one place to another, opening doors, getting Ruth dressed and undressed, and doing household chores such as taking the laundry out. She is also trained to fetch Ruth’s alarm if she collapses, and to find help if she becomes unconscious.

Ruth’s very moving talk ended with a short demonstration of Willow’s ability to fetch items to order, wherever they might be.

Report by David Bull