Inca’s Tribute

To my Dearest Inca


Where do I start? From the moment I first saw you 15 years ago in the rescue kennel, I knew you were the one. You rushed into my arms like you were greeting an old friend and was determined you were coming home with me! Passing all the little tests we had to see if you’d make a good ‘hearing dog’ for me.

Inca when I first got her from rescue


My dad helped me train you, so you were an important link to him after he passed away. You never left my side through all the toughest things I had to go through, you were the only one in my life who was there every single day and every night to snuggle up and kiss away the tears from loss of family, the high & constant pain levels & fatigue, the transition from walking to wheelchair and the battle to get back to semi independence. You learnt everything I needed you to with enthusiasm and without complaint.

She learned to open and close doors

Inca 016


Paw's visit! 006

By the time I was needing a wheelchair full time you were alerting me to phone, doorbell, had already saved my life once when some oven gloves really did catch fire after I’d fallen asleep on the sofa. … and bravely ran off for help one time when my wheelchair tipped over in the park to get a ladies attention and bring her back to me. Not to mention the numerous times you picked up everything I dropped, helped me off with my clothes, emptied the washing machine and dryer for me and just made living independently possible! You were my original canine Angel.

Even accepting your ‘little brother’ JJ and teaching him so you could retire. I know that was so hard for you after having me to yourself for 11 and a half years, but I’m so proud of you for doing that for me! You trained him well, he learned so much from you.

Inca taught him how to do laundry


..tidy up

JJ will miss you too, you’ve been his ‘big sis’ since he was 8 weeks old and I know you had got quite fond of him in the end! He was a big help to you when you started going blind and I know you found comfort in him being by your side too!


You take a huge chunk of my heart with you over to Rainbow Bridge. You were my soul mate., my special girl, my rock, my independence, my life.

My original Canine Angel



I love you and will miss you forever


Mummy xx

Happy 14th Birthday Inca!

Inca 14 today!

Inca 14 today!

Who would have thought when I picked that little puppy out of rescue nearly 14 yrs ago (she was 4 months old when I got her) she would not only become my ears and help me round the house but also help me to train up another dog!

Inca when I first got her from rescue

Inca when I first got her from rescue

I was fully mobile when I first got her in 2001 but had been deaf since age 16. My dad wanted me to have a dog living in a flat on my own. He was worried flashing house lights (to tell me doorbell, minicom was ringing) would make me an easy target for burglary and thought I’d be safer with a dog.  So I went to local rescue with my then sister-in-law and that’s where I found Inca!

My dad helped me train her to smoke alarm, doorbell, someone knocking on door and minicom ringing.  Sadly he passed away the following year and wasn’t here when I started to have problems with my back and legs. My mum had passed away years ago back in 1991 so if Inca and I were to survive together she would have to learn to help me as by that time it was becoming apparent I would end up in a wheelchair. It took just 18 months for me to go from being able to walk ‘normally’ to being issued with my first manual wheelchair by the NHS.   Inca really stepped up to the plate after being a rather naughty puppy!!!

She learned to open and close doors

She learned to open and close doors

 unload washing machine and dryer

unload washing machine and dryer

..and generally pick up whatever I dropped.  She saved my life once after some oven gloves dropped onto the back ring of the electric cooker (that I’d accidently left on) and caught fire. I’d fallen asleep on the sofa watching telly, The smoke alarm in that flat was in the hall but the door was shut, also the batteries unbeknown to me the batteries were flat!..the alarm never went off but Inca woke me up and dropped into the ‘danger’ position (drop into a down and bark to signal danger) looking worriedly towards the kitchen. I sat up and looked in to see it filling with smoke!!

She coped well with moving house as the flat wasn’t exactly easy with a wheelchair and a scooter parked in the narrow hall, and was thrilled to have her own garden and a new padding pool!

She gave me many years of independence but when she was reaching 11 years old she was starting to get arthritis and I had to decide what to do, she wasn’t going to be able to help me forever, we’d both need someone else!  After a 7 month search little JJ came to our lives!

initially she wasn't thrilled to have a 'little bro'

initially she wasn’t thrilled to have a ‘little bro’

It’s fair to say she was less than keen to welcome a young boisterous puppy into our quiet household! … but she coped and became his mentor showing him how to do jobs, it was much easier to teach JJ how to do something by getting him to watch Inca and then copy.

Inca taught him how to do laundry

Inca taught him how to do laundry

..tidy up

..tidy up

teaching road sense and walking alongside my scooter

teaching road sense and walking alongside my scooter

Almost everything JJ can now do, Inca taught him – he did come up a few things himself though as he’s also a very bright dog!  I was particuarly proud of how she coped with and taught JJ though as being an only dog for 11 and half years before he came I knew it wasn’t easy for her and she’s had the pain to cope from arthritis and is going blind. I think now though he’s a comfort to her and without him I wouldn’t have managed to support her in her old age.



Happy Birthday my special girl!!

Me & my girl!

Me & my girl!

Why I chose not to get an official assistance dog (and the differences)

I haven’t posted for a while and alot has happened. JJ has turned 2 years old and my special girl Inca has not been well and suffering the effects of old age. She has cataracts and her back end is wasting. I am hoping to have one last xmas with her as we are only a few weeks off now.  However this is not the reason for my post.

There was been several posts in the media about Liz Jones a reporter for the Daily Mail who is deaf and claims to have FOUR Hearing Dogs!  Whilst there’s nothing wrong with training your own pets to help you around the house, what is wrong is that she takes them in public places where pets are usually not allowed, claims they are ‘hearing dogs’ and admits that they don’t always behave in public!  She also deliberately misleads readers by posting a stock photo of a spaniel in an old Hearing Dog jacket whilst talking about her dogs. I hadn’t heard of her before reading this article so thought it was was one of her dogs and wondered HOW she managed to get hold of an Official jacket which are only given with a dog trained by Hearing Dogs for Deaf People?

I’d like to state that I have NEVER once taken either of my dogs into any area where pet dogs are not usually allowed and claimed they are my assistance dogs.  Not even when I lived nearer to town and could walk to the shopping centre with Inca who was then a young dog. At the time of getting Inca I had been waiting a few years for an Hearing Dog, I lived on my own in a flat and my dad was worried as it wasn’t a good area. He felt I could do with a dog for protection and he felt flashing house lights to let me know someone was at door or phone ringing was a bad idea. So I went to a local rescue and got Inca. My dad helped me train her where two people were needed (for him to send her back to me when she naturally ran to door or smoke alarm). This was 13 yrs ago, there was little literature about how to train a hearing dog. you occasionally saw them on TV but I didn’t have the internet then. We learned as we went along. She did what I needed her to do, if I went shopping I went by myself.

Fast forward 10 years..Inca is now 11 and half and starting with arthritis. I needed to make a decision. I had by also been a wheelchair user for nearly 7 years and had also managed to teach her to pick things up for me, empty washing and dryer and help me pull my clothes off. However I’d now need a dog to learn everything at once! I looked into and sent applications for a Dual Skilled Assistance Dog trained jointly by Canine Partners and Hearing Dogs for the Deaf. However the more I read about the process, the more I was unsure it was right for me.

If I got lucky and didn’t have to wait long I’d have to go to training centre and come back with a would Inca cope with that? Not only is it a new dog, its taking over all her jobs. If it took a long time, Inca may have passed away and I’d have a period with no help at all. The rules seemed many, but the most important fact is the dogs are extremely well behaved and virtually bomb proof in public, so they undergo years of public training from being very young puppies they are allowed in places where most pet dogs are not so they can gain that experience. If you choose to get your pet dog qualified yourself by a charity such as Dog Aid they have to be over 2 years old to take the Public Training exam so already you are working to a disadvantage regarding working in public.

I am not a professional dog trainer but have managed to train a Border Collie (bred to work sheep) to help me around the house. He does a great job, we have a strong bond, he loves to help and having his little ‘job’ to do, he even does things himself that I haven’t specifically taught him. He’s nudged my foot several times whilst on farm track when a car was behind us waiting to pass I never taught him that, only to ‘tell’ me when he heard a sound I needed to know about ie minicom, doorbell, smoke alarm. He’s a smart dog..Border Collies are often voted the Top 10 most Intelligent dogs so it came as no surprise that he figured out himself that a car behind us was something I needed to know about!

He’s also taken it upon himself to walk next to Inca when she goes for a wee at night. She’s going blind so her night vision isn’t good, rather than him just going off to do his own thing he walks round the path with her, waits until she goes to the loo then walks her back to the door! .. then he goes and has a wee himself and sniff about before coming in to bed whilst I help Inca to bed. I haven’t specifically trained this either!  Despite his intelligence, he is strongly driven by his instinct to herd when we are out walking even though we’re in a village where traffic although busy at peak times gets nowhere near as bad as town.

I have medical problems that make travelling difficult and exhausting and combined with distance from nearest town and cost via wheelchair taxi rarely get into town. I also need help getting shopping anyway and find busy areas disorientating with the bright shop lights and people bustling past especially as I’m sat in chair so my head is at most people’s waist height. To me it seemed a waste if a dog highly trained in social skills and to cope with working in public only got to do that a couple of times a year, surely that dog would be better off given to someone who could work but needed a dog, who didn’t have time to take off to train a puppy from 8 weeks old and most importantly needed a dog that could cope with a busy public transport and a workplace daily.

My home is ideal for a dog that needs a quieter life who could thrive with a bit extra personal attention, playtime, a few little jobs to do without the pressure.  One of the breeds I’d always wanted to own in my lifetime was a Border Collie. A Traditional black & white one, it was my probably my last chance to manage a puppy from a very young age and I felt a puppy would be a gentler transition for Inca, she’d still be working while he was very young and their roles would change very gradually as he grew up and she grew old. It was the right decision for me.

However some people don’t have the time or skills to train a dog, they want or need someone else to do that part for them. They need a dog that is reliable in public places and this is the major difference between an official dog trained by the charities and someone’s pet. Yes my dog does the work of a Dual Skilled Dog in MY home, he also acts as Inca’s guide dog! He’s very versatile, but he’s not experienced working in public because he’s never had that opportunity. I know he’d find it too overstimulating at his current age, whether he’d calm down further by the time Dog Aid were taking on new people I don’t know.

I still think if JJ had a choice and I was able to travel/employ an helper to drive us somewhere he’d much prefer to go to the nearest sheepdog centre and have a go at herding,  than go learn to walk through a busy shopping centre full of people, unexpected noises and bright lights, I don’t think he’d understand the connection (that it was part of the same ‘job’)  between him enjoying emptying the washing for me at home and having to walk through a busy noisy place.

However, Qualified assistance dogs are trained to cope with that from a very young age and this is the big difference between a proper ‘Assistance Dog’ and Liz Jones’ pet collies that she claims are her ‘hearing dogs’!  I would question the fact she trained her dogs ‘to create a commotion if my fire alarm goes off’. If the dogs are barking cos she can’t hear the smoke alarm as she’s deaf then how can she hear them barking???  What if its at night and she’s in bed without hearing aids? How does the dogs barking and causing a commotion help a deaf person know whether there’s a smoke alarm going off or a burglar breaking in if they’re fast asleep and can’t hear the ‘commotion’???

Both my dogs automatically barked and ran about when young when the fire alarm first went off, JJ even howls he hates the noise!  .. I didn’t train him to howl when the smoke alarm went off! I trained them to stop and think.. ‘mum needs to know about this!’ … they come and find me (its no use them just barking/howling in the kitchen if I’m in bed asleep and don’t have my hearing aids in) JJ understands I need to see him bark so he comes and actually get my attention by touching me that is a trained behaviour! Although he still doesn’t like the pitch of the alarm and still barks he does do the actual ‘tell’ and he does the ‘down’ so I know its not just someone at the door late at night/trying to break in etc.. he gives a distinct sign its the smoke alarm.  Dogs will naturally bark and cause a commotion if someone tries to break in too, how is that training?… a dog coming to physically prod you to tell you is not something they would do naturally as most hearing owners would just just run into the room they heard the barking from to see why they were barking! ..Even then a smart pet may jump  up on a bed even if hearing owners don’t respond to him barking, many pets have saved their family from fire at night or a baby/child having a seizure at night etc that doesn’t make them assistance dogs!

The difference is a Qualified Assistance dog is specifically trained from a young age to work in public. Maybe the charities need to get a slot on morning TV or something showing how the dogs are started from a very young age and the what the ID looks like that people carry so shop owners and other public service providers can recognise an official dog when they see one!

JJ’s Training: 6 month progress

photo       Well my little boy is now 6 months old!.. not so little.. he’s only a few inches off Inca height wise now already!

I try to give him an healthy balance of time to just ‘be a puppy’ with time I need him to learn.. or to start learning, the foundations ofthe skills he is going to need when he takes over from Inca.

As mentioned in the last post I teach them through play.  Sometimes he just does things that turn into a training session,  others I plan what I am going to teach him,  how I am going to incorporate it into a game he will enjoy.. that will carry on to become a useful skill as he gets older.

Recently when we’d had some nice weather I had hung some stuff out.  JJ watching Inca carry the peg basket out into the garden then also wanted to join in!  I got him his own little basket to put his toys in.  he’s not quite got the hang of it yet and drops them but at this early stage that doesn’t matter.  He’s learning the skills he’ll need later to understand how to carry the peg basket out for me.  pick up any pegs I drop and put them back in or pass them to me.



He learns quickly.  After a few incoming phone calls on my minicom he’s relaised Inca gets a treat for going to the phone,  I don’t think he’s realised that she’s getting it just for disappearing from room (to come and tell me if I’m not in the room)  but he’s certainly made some kind of connection between the phone ringing and treats so just goes and sits in front of it and waits for Inca to come back in with me!  😀

He’s come into bathroom barked and run back to kitchen when kettle had clicked off but I think that’s cos I always boil the kettle just before doing their dinner as Inca needs her kibble soaking so he’s made the association between the kettle and their dinner following. I didn’t teach him to do that.

Puppies will be puppies and sometimes run off with things.. I get Inca to go pick something up so he can see and/or hear her getting a treat or big fuss for it.  At first he’d run back in without the item he’d run off with.  I’d get Inca to go fetch it and treat her again.. by that time he’s desperate for one of these treats!..  so I throw or place item on floor closer and wait for him to go for it,  as he did I click and say/sign ‘pick it up’ and then ‘give’ just as he’s getting close enough to give me it in exchange for a treat.   It didn’t take him long to realise he’d get more out of bringing something to me than running off with it and now regularly picks up things I’ve dropped often without me needing to ask.  He doesn’t only associate it with the house or training sessions either,  recently he did it unprompted in the park as I dropped my glove whilst trying to unclip his lead to let him off to play.

I’d spent ages putting together a little slideshow..then found WordPress won’t accept anything other than it’s own which is disappointing after I uploaded 20 pics. If you click on link below, it should take you to it as it seems unable to embed the link in the page anymore either!

I think I maybe trying a better free blog so if anyone knows of one better for free where the links and slideshows on whatever program you have on computer will work, I’ll be interested to know.

Learning Through Play

I’ve been asked by several people how I trained Inca to do the jobs she does for me.  As I wasn’t on internet much then I never did a blog,  no camera phone or anything then to take endless photo’s of every stage!   She was older and had basic obedience before I got first symptoms of Ataxia and nearly 4yrs old by the time I was teaching to do tasks like helping with dressing by which time she had all the vocabulary she needed for me to teach the ‘job’.

With JJ it has been very different.  He arrived at just over 8 weeks,  a little fluffy bundle eager to cuddle, play and eat but with no comprehension of language or ability to follow instructions!.. so how do I shape my fluffy little bundle into my full time helper by the time he reaches maturity?

The easiest way to start is wait until he does a behaviour naturally… ie sit,  then say or sign sit you have to pretty quick for him to get the connection at first.  Clicker training is very useful for this, He sits,  you click immediately and then treat,  soon he will associate the click with the action.

a 'sit' and 'look' beautifully demonstrated by JJ!

a ‘sit’ and ‘look’ beautifully demonstrated by JJ!

Interactive games are great for reinforcing the actions you want to teach as they work out how to get their food out.

'pick it up'....

‘pick it up’….

.. and 'pull'

.. and ‘pull’

For some skills I needed to work out a way to teach it specifically..  if it’s more complex you need to break the jobs down into stages.. work out what command needs teaching for each stage,  teach the commands first seperately then put the task back together again.  He will then be able to do more complex tasks where several commands need to be strung together to complete it.

Here’s an example..  I taught Inca to slide something out from under or behind an object by using this toy.

I taught Inca the 'slide item under paw' trick using this plastic igloo toy

I taught Inca the ‘slide item under paw’ trick using this plastic igloo toy

then would hide treats just under front of sofa

then would hide treats just under front of sofa

.. later she can use those skills to retrieve items such as pen I dropped

.. later she can use those skills to retrieve items such as pen I dropped

Another toy I found good for teaching a variety of skills is actually an infants toy called ‘pop up pals’,  it has a variety of different switches to activate to get the ‘animal’ to pop up.  I then treat.  This was Inca’s and bought before they started making dog toys that now do the same.

JJ has to work out which can be pressed easily with paw..

JJ has to work out which can be pressed easily with paw..

.. or maybe it be easier with his mouth?

.. or maybe it be easier with his mouth?

These problem solving skills can then be applied to real ‘jobs’ I need him to do for me as he gets older.  The other day he worked out how to get a pen that had dropped under front of TV cabinet.

JJ works out to turn body and lower right front leg to reach pen just underneath

JJ works out to turn body and lower right front leg to reach pen just underneath

The most useful skills that can apply to several easy ‘jobs’ are ‘pick it up’,  ‘bring it here’, ‘pull’ and ‘put it in’ .

JJ is practising 'pick it up',  'bring it here', and 'put it in' with this Tidy-up game

JJ is practising ‘pick it up’, ‘bring it here’, and ‘put it in’ with this Tidy-up game

here he's applying 'pull' to retrieving his snuggle puppy from the dryer

here he’s applying ‘pull’ to retrieving his snuggle puppy from the dryer

in a later session Inca shows him how to apply 'pull' to get washing out for me..

in a later session Inca shows him how to apply ‘pull’ to get washing out for me..

JJ practises 'pull'..

JJ practises ‘pull’..

and 'in the basket'

and ‘in the basket’

This is just the beginning,  he is only 4 months old on 23rd January this month so he still has a lot to learn before all this becomes automatic and he can take over fully from Inca so she can ‘retire’.  Of course he’s also been learning toilet training,  basic commands and road safety, coping with teething and has yet to go through his ‘teens’.   So he has a busy 18 months ahead of him!!

I have every faith in him though,  he is a bright little boy and that natural collie intelligence will get him far.  The first time I let him off-lead in an enclosed tennis court,  part of it is a on a slight slope at the far back of it,  so when he brought his ball to me it would roll under my scooter. The third time without me giving him any prompts at all he put his paw on top his ball as I approached to stop the ball rolling under my scooter!!!

paw on ball  to stop it rolling under scooter as I drive up to him!

paw on ball to stop it rolling under scooter as I drive up to him!

JJ’s First Xmas

photo JJ seemed to enjoy his first xmas!!   He certainly enjoyed opening all the presents even though he didn’t know why we were having a mad present fest this particular day!  🙂  (must have thought it was his birthday!)


This was the first day they played in the same room with food in treat dispensers,  but of course it doesn’t give them as  much space to fling their toys about without getting in each others way.


I let them take turns having a go at unwrapping their big present to introduce the concept of them taking turns to do something.

IMG_1393     IMG_1394

I often get them to sit or stand and pose for photo’s I think it’s good for basic obedience,  they are learning sit,  stay and wait.

"Look what Santa Paws bought us! "

“Look what Santa Paws bought us! “

As I only got JJ in November,  this first month has just been about settling in,  learning our routine,  building the relationship up between him and Inca and learning the basics ie toilet training , basic obedience and learning to walk alongside my chair/scooter.

Of course I also use sign so he’s learning the signs as my speech isn’t very consistent and depends on my muscle tone.  Sometimes it comes out clearly,  other times I struggle to get words out at all.  I find it harder when having to speak longer sentences with more than a few words strung together as of course it’s taking alot more co-ordination between my speech muscles and breathing which are all affected by the Ataxia.  Due to this I’m also starting to use a whistle for recall as sometimes I can get a whistle sound out and he comes in instantly but again its not consistent, so hopefully a whistle will help.

So far he has learnt the following commands/sentences in speech/sign:

sit,  stay,  down, wait, no, ok,  on,  off,  ride,  pick it up,  pull,  give,  off the road,  on the path,  on the grass, wait for Inca, paws up, paws off,  toilet,  tell and most recently ‘socks off”!

JJ had a go at pulling my socks off last night!

JJ had a go at pulling my socks off last night!

Most importantly the relationship between them is improving which I need for him to be able to learn from Inca directly,  so she will tolerate him been in same room as her when she is ‘working’ and so he won’t pester her and be trying to jump on her or play when she’s trying to do a job for me.

Initially Inca was not keen!

Initially Inca was not keen!


learning to be together

learning to be together


Inca's getting more relaxed near him,  but only whilst I'm there

Inca’s getting more relaxed near him

Inca doesn’t seem to growl and snap at him as much outdoors even when he tries to kiss her as they’re walking along side by side! ..  Due to heavy rain I haven’t been able to get into middle of a field with him to let him off lead safely away from cars.  I was worried he would either take off over ground I couldn’t follow him on or pester Inca and it end in a fight and I wouldn’t be able to get to them.

They have been playing  in the garden seperately cos as soon as Inca came to see what he was doing,  he took it as she wanted to play and would go charging up her and she’d get nasty with him,  same if I let them out to toilet together so neither dog would end up actually going to the toilet.  Inca was also snapping at him if he had a toy in his mouth,  although she showed no interest in playing previously other than with toys that have her food in!

walking side by side

walking side by side

.. and checking out stuff together

.. and checking out stuff together

I feel we’re ready to take the next step now so once JJ’s whistle has arrived and we’ve had a bit of training around house and garden,  I’m planning to take them a little further where there’s an enclosed tennis court we can go in to start with and see how they go on off-lead together in there with lots of treats and a couple of balls!!  🙂




JJ’s first Walkies!

Yesterday JJ could come for wallks with us for the first time after his vaccinations.

We went with scooter first,  he enjoyed sitting on the footplate and watching things go past.

JJ enjoys riding on the footplate

JJ enjoys riding on the footplate

He was a bit nervous at first of all the noises it was bin day too which didn’t help loads of people dragging bins about and big refuse trucks,  he didn’t walk much of the first walk but got off to explore on some grass when we got to a quieter bit. Later in the afternoon we went to a quieter path like a woodland area that cuts through an estate opposite,  he walked more of that and started feeling braver and going further from me.

JJ wanders ahead following Inca

JJ wanders ahead following Inca

This morning I decided to go in powerchair to the little park.. maybe not a good choice!  Apart from the fact he was heavy on my arms (he already exceeds weight of most puppy carriers 6-9kg) we had just got through the gate and there was a load of dog walkers walking their dogs together with about 8 dogs off-lead.  They all came charging up and JJ found it a bit scary.  He managed to get under the front of my chair so of course then I couldn’t move in case I ran over him. I had to sit and wait for the people to get to us to call off their dogs and one of them to help me get JJ from under the chair!

Inca’s protective instinct seems to have kicked in and she was stood at side of my chair growling at a large chocolate lab so he couldn’t get to JJ’s face… then further around a large dog came running over to us..  again, owner miles behind.  I think it’s a Newfoundland so looks like a giant brown bear so again JJ was trying to get behind my chair.. I managed to grab top of his harness and pull him up on knee before he got too far round the back of me whilst Inca charged at the other dog which slowed him down temporarily but he still came right up and he’s right in my face as I was sat in the chair lower down,  with JJ trying to scramble over my shoulder!

So we won’t  be going in there at that time again and probably wait until he can easily manage the whole walk and is bigger to protect himself.

have the big dogs gone now mummy?

have the big dogs gone now mummy?

On a practical level managing two dogs and a wheelchair/mobility scooter is a challenge,  especially when one of them is too young to go off-lead at all and understand things like ‘go round’ where cars park halfway on pavement.  What I did was buy a Mikki Jogging lead,  it has an wrist strap.  In the chair I slipped seatbelt through it to secure him on my knee and took one extending lead attached to armrest.  When we were near road Inca was at side of me on extending lead (locked to a certain length close to chair) and JJ on my knee secured to my seatbelt with the jogging lead,  then when we got to park Inca came off-lead and put JJ on the extending lead so he could walk around.

On the scooter it worked out better to fasten jogging lead to scooter armrest and have Inca on that where she needed to be on-lead to cross a road etc so I still had that hand free to keep hold of the top of JJs harness (sat between my legs on footplate).

wristband of jogging lead is fastened around scooter armrest

wristband of jogging lead is fastened around scooter armrest

Inca on lead before we go to cross the road

Inca on lead before we go to cross the road

JJ was on extending lead with the chunky handle under my leg,  I found it easier to keep it in place with one hand on his harness and both legs around him.. good job I can steer scooter one-handed!  When Inca was off-lead I had extending lead handle in left hand when JJ was walking alongside too.

I let him walk as soon as we get off main road as I live on quiet cul-de-sac so don’t have loads of cars flying up and down in the middle of the day and he is learning to sit nicely at the kerb just before we reach my house.

learning to sit at the kerb with Inca

learning to sit at the kerb with Inca

Just hoping he gets more confident quickly as he will grow so fast and soon be too big to sit on my knee in the chair.  For now we will stick with the scooter and hopefully he will be soon be walking around the village confidently alongside me and Inca!!  🙂

Help Yourself!

After reading several links on Facebook about the state of the country and help for those who need it and my own experience of trying to get diagnosis and help from the NHS I have come to the conclusion that we don’t stand a chance basically unless we have the intelligence to work things out for ourselves!

When I tried to get help with my speech years ago when symptoms were just starting an ‘expert’ was sent out who expertly concluded I just ‘sounded deaf’!  (I’d been deaf since age 16 at this point age 35.. and having been born hearing,  had managed to not ‘sound deaf’ for the previous 17 years)

I’ve had a Neurophysio visit who showed me some back exercises which incidentally I was already doing on Wii Fit (the bridge exercise and crocodile stretch one) I asked about splints to help me with maintain walking I was told the NHS wouldn’t fund them for just a few steps with assistance as this is not considered ‘functional walking’… however.. try applying for an NHS powerchair whilst you can still stand and take a few steps to transfer..  THEN.. when they need to avoid having to issue too many.. it DOES count as been able to walk and you don’t qualify!   .. it took 3 attempts over several years for me to get one which was then returned after a year due to electrical failure and after the hassle I had getting anything done I decided it wasn’t worth it,  I’ll find a way to fund my next one myself and get what I think will work best for me!

The passive trainer pedals which have made a big difference to my pain and mobility levels over this last year was a last resort and going ‘against medical advice’ after again been told by an ‘expert’ it wouldn’t work for me.

Passive Trainer pedals


Luckily for me I ignored their advice on the splints too,  but as you can’t get splints without a prescription (I was told.. you actually can!) I had my first ones shipped from the US with a Sensory Balance Belt.  I also bought my Piedro boots privately.  It was an expensive gamble in total with the boots been over £100 each, the splints,  balance belt and shipping from US were near £200.


The passive trainer pedals I took a gamble on after spotting a note on bottom of one site.  I had originally been led to the ones that cost thousands called Theracycles that were originally designed for people who were actually paralysed.  After coming across the Oxycycle (above)  by accident and looking for site with cheapest price I spotted a note on one site saying that these were NOT suitable for people who were paralysed.  I emailed them to check that they were motorised and why they were so cheap in comparison with other ‘passive trainers’  I was told you needed to have the ability to move your legs to be able to use the Oxycycle and it just assisted with the motor in making the movement more fluent.


As the Theracycles were at least £5,000 at the time for the cheapest pedal version I decided to take a gamble on the Oxycycle and luckily it paid off with persistence!  It’s a good job I’m stubborn cos the first few months attempts resulted in it sending my legs into spasms after just the 15 min pre-set time,  but I stuck with it reducing it right down to a single minute and building up… a year later my record has been 90 consecutive mins whilst watching a film,  usually I do 30 or 60 mins though in one go.

I still believe a standing chair would greatly help in my battle to remain independent but due to the cost and weight of the electric versions I have decided to look into the manual versions.

2 different models of manual standing chair


They have restrictions in that you can’t move whilst in the standing position so have to come back down again to move the chair, but even standing for 30 mins whilst playing tennis on the  Wii or something would be of help. I figured if you add E-fix wheels to make it electric with a joystick,  (see pic below) you’d only need to come down a little way so the supports were off the floor to move the chair in a semi stand,  this maybe helpful in a kitchen moving between worktops,  cooker and fridge etc as you can stop at any point between sitting down and fully standing up!

Some models require strength in arms and what look like the arm rests are the levers to use your own body weight to pull you up with a ‘gas lift’ assist (kind you find in office chairs to raise and lower),  others have a little battery and powered assist for the standing feature only, which will need to be charged I would think even though the chair is manual.   Even though these are classed as ‘manual chairs’ they still start at around the £5,000 mark.. and if you were adding the E-fix you’d be looking at around £9,000, unless you could make savings by managing to obtain both second-hand.   Still the big pro for this for me personally would be that as  its a manual chair I wouldn’t get stranded,  cos I can switch it back to manual if the battery went.

The E-fix turns any manual chair into a portable powered one

It wouldn’t get me in the park as the path is not smooth enough,  as my manual chairs have very small front castors but is ok for indoor venues such as shopping centres and you still retain a folding chair to fit in a smaller car boot.  Each wheel is a little heavier than a regular 24″  wheel but not any heavier than the chair frame when all the parts are seperate.  The joystick is removable and the battery under the chair seat so a folding seat can still be folded up.

Here’s video of how to take apart and fit in a car boot:


I plan to keep an eye out for these second-hand to see if I get myself one in the next year or so,  but first need to organise a demo to see whether I could manage the version with gas lift or would need the battery assisted lift to stand.  I think if you disagree with what your health provider says will work,  you need to be prepared to do alot of research to work out why and what you feel would be a better alternative for you.



Just a Fun post: Advert for Canine Helper

This post is just for a bit of fun but I wondered if dogs could read, how many of them would apply to be my next Assistance Dog!! 😀

“oooh… here’s a good job!”


Your challenge should you wish to accept is to work as my partner to help me remain independent.

Your responsibilities:

You will be working everyday, throughout the day but get time for  rest breaks, playtime and walks. Some events do not happen everyday,  some events will happen in the middle of another one.  eg.  You need to tell me when my textphone is ringing or someone knocking at door or ringing doorbell regardless of what other job you are doing or if you are playing at the time!

You MUST tell me if the smoke alarm goes off by giving the danger sign (dropping to floor not leading to sound)  in case it is ever a real fire.

Helping with dressing and undressing

Laundry duties:  including removing clothes from washer and dryer and carrying peg basket outside,  picking up any pegs dropped

Tidying your toys away

Helping Inca (my elderly dog) ie opening or closing back door for her if she wants to go out (if I have transferred to bed or sofa) and helping her tidy her toys away.

Public duties: You will be expected to come with me to help with shopping trips and must be on your best behaviour at all times when you are working in public.

You must watch me closely for signed commands to what I need you to do and stay by my side at all times in public places when you are working.


In exchange for this you will receive:

An home for life

All the cuddles you need any time of day or night

All Food & Medical expenses paid (and any ‘professional’ grooming costs if this applies)

Birthday and Xmas presents every year for life!

Trips out to parks,  nature reserves and holidays (where funds and transport allow)

At least 90 mins exercise (1 hour mornings,  30 mins afternoon/evening)  on non-shopping days and access to your own garden all day.

Paddling pool, agility course, and ball pit available for outdoor play. (A Flyball launcher is also planned for the near future)

Lots of doggy puzzles and treat dispensers for indoor play on rainy days!


So how many applicants do you think I would get?  😀



Product Review

Trabasack Media Mount

The new Media Mount by Trabasack

The new Media Mount by Trabasack

I first saw this product as a Prototype last year when it was nick named ‘Monti Media’

With all the equipment I have been collecting since my Ataxia started, I tend to prefer to look for things that are more compact if possible and can do more than one thing, to reduce the amount of stuff I have to take around with me.

The Media Mount is designed as a Trabasack accessory for the Connect (Velcro top) surface.  It can be used in a variety of ways.

I found it very good with the iPad so I could feed it through  the raised end and wrap it around to stop it falling off. (shown with original apple iPad case)

useful for supporting and angling an iPad or other communication device

The Prototype had a zip along the length of it so it wasn’t quite as flexible as the finished product now is.   It’s much more flexible without the zip and whilst I couldn’t wrap the ends around the end of the keyboard with the Prototype,  I can with the finished Monti and makes an excellent wrist support for typing with a keyboard.

in front of keyboard for wrist support

It is also useful for carrying anything that could slide off which you couldn’t velcro to the tray like a plate of sandwiches etc

useful for stopping plates sliding off your knee

You can bend it into different positions, its really flexible and can be used as a guide to keep persons hand in specific spot for example around a switch.

can be used for switch training to keep person’s hand within a target area

… or wrap it around a bottle to stop it falling off tray

As its soft and flexible it can be placed inside the Trabasack out of the way if necessary to hang on the back of a chair until needed.  Or it can be left velcroed to the top of it.

I think it’s an excellent product, multi-functional & well thought out. It adds further functionality to the original Trabasack Connect without adding extra weight to it

You can purchase the Trabasack Media Mount from their online store here for £19.99.