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'Nuisance Dog' can be a great help with Parkinson's

By West Briton  |  Posted: May 08, 2014

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SATURDAY is my sidekick's favourite day, especially when it's sunny.

My little ragtag dog is the leftovers of all the other breeds – little pieces sewn together like patchwork. Because of the lack of fur on his black ears and an excess of curly whitish hair everywhere else, he appears to have a Mohican haircut. To those that ask did I shave the black bits, the answer is a frown. The vet said it was stress and it might grow back after I rescued him. Personally, I think it is his little Yorkshire terrier ears on his Jack Russell head.

When he wakes in the morning he looks at me with a quizzical bed hair face. He has a 'what are we going to do today?' eyebrow raised. I declare it Saturday and therefore puppy day. He flies off the bed and goes to fetch me a dog biscuit (I admit I buy the heart-shaped ones because he would if he could).

Instead of calling him my assistant dog, he has won the title of Nuisance Dog. Don't worry, I couldn't live without him now, and he is the best tonic for a person with Parkinson's disease. He nags me if I get up too slowly in the mornings. One of my symptoms is "freezing". I get stuck like a statue and I don't know I'm doing it. He has learnt by instinct to "talk" to me and issues a low growl. It works. If I'm on the end of the lead he pulls me along, until he knows I am OK.

There are Parkinson's assistance dog training groups in the USA and just starting in the UK. I smiled when I read that Great Danes were being trained to prevent people with Parkinson's from falling over. Put a Great Dane in my small house and the problem might be exacerbated.

I call him my nuisance dog because when he is not watching my every movement, he flies at me like Kato in the old Pink Panther movies. He seems to be testing my agility and balance. When I did fall over he brought me a toy.

His new self-taught trick is bringing my slippers when I come home. Brilliant. Now how do I teach him to drop them instead of running off down the garden with them?

He has a mischievous sense of humour, rather like myself. A lady recently asked me if he was a Bichon Frise, to wit I replied, "No, he's from Redruth".

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