Service dog helps woman with rare condition live full life

Wendy Hilling doesn’t go anywhere without her Golden Retriever Edward, a service dog who has given the North Devon, England resident a new lease on life.

Wendy Hilling’s skin blisters with the smallest injuries and scratches. (Photo credit: Canine Partners)

Wendy suffers from a very rare ailment called Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa, an inherited disorder that causes her skin to blister due to even the smallest injuries and scratches. Wendy’s serious illness is actually a group of conditions, and can even cause internal blistering in the throat, stomach, and intestines. Epidermis Bullosa is incurable, dangerous, and can even prove fatal, so Wendy must always be cautious in anything she does.

Before adding Edward to their family in 2008, Wendy and her husband Peter had to work together to keep the effects of Wendy’s illness at bay. Having to constantly monitor Wendy’s wellbeing started taking a toll on her husband, Wendy explains.

“My throat became a nightmare to live with,” Wendy tells the Daily Mail. “My balance was bad — I had to hold onto Peter to walk and would not go out on my own at all.”

“The pressure on Peter was tremendous,” she admits.

But everything changed when loyal Edward, trained by service dog organization Canine Partners, came into the picture. Wendy and Peter once had to sleep in shifts at night just to make sure Wendy didn’t stop breathing. But now, with Edward’s help, the couple can slumber soundly knowing Edward will keep watch over Wendy and wake her husband in case of an emergency.

“When Edward was about ten months old, my husband had fallen asleep and I stopped breathing,” Wendy remembers. “Edward immediately woke him up. Edward has proved to be so reliable at waking Peter that we can both go off to sleep knowing he will save my life.”

“My husband is my carer, but now we have Edward it gives him time off,” Wendy says gratefully.

With Edward’s assistance, Wendy can now venture out into the world and do everything she needs to do, from completing everyday errands to achieving lifelong goals. Edward gets Wendy up out of bed in the morning, helps her get dressed, and can even do the laundry. He accompanies Wendy to the grocery store, where he can retrieve cash from the ATM and interact with store clerks. And two years ago, Edward helped Wendy do something she never thought would be possible — attend art school.

“I always wanted to study art but felt I couldn’t,” Wendy says. “Since having Edward, I have completed two years at art college and passed my art and design level two.”

Wendy’s condition can be dreadfully painful at times, but she says she gets through the discomfort with Edward’s help.

“When the pain is very bad, I cuddle up to him or he gets a toy,” Wendy says of Edward.

Having to care for Edward has provided Wendy a new focus, she says. “Edward was to be the making of me,” Wendy explains. “I am so wrapped up in him and his wellbeing that I don’t worry like I used to.”

“Nothing can explain the feeling inside me when I wake knowing the day is mine. With Edward I instantly go from the one who is cared for, to the one who is caring,” she adds.

Wendy says now she can’t imagine her life without her beloved Edward, the dog who is not only a caretaker, but a lifelong companion, too.

“I love Edward more than words can say,” says Wendy, “after all — I hold his lead and he holds my heart.”

Source: Daily Mail