“Poppy gave me my life back,” Bobbie Hubbard-Marks says, looking at the beautiful black Labrador at her side.
“Whatever I need Poppy to do, she will do it. It’s as though she’s holding a bucket and saying ‘throw anything at me, I’ll catch it’. She’s remarkable.”
Poppy is Bobbie’s pet dog – but she’s so much more than that. She’s her personal assistant and very best friend rolled into one.
For most of her life, Bobbie was an incredibly active woman, with a 33-year nursing career in which she was a combat and medical assistant technician, volunteering to provide medical support during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.
However, everything changed shortly after her retirement, while on holiday in Bulgaria, after a fall left Bobbie permanently paralysed from the waist down.
Understandably, having lived such an active life, caring and supporting others, Bobbie felt that her world was in tatters.
Even so, despite such a devastating prognosis and being in great pain, Bobbie did what she could to remain positive in difficult circumstances.
She and her partner Jenny agreed they would like to get a pet dog and so it was that Poppy bounced into their lives, at just four months old.
A couple of months later, Bobbie heard about the work of Sheffield charity Support Dogs and how their disability programme can train someone’s pet dog to become their registered assistance dog.
They got in touch and after much waiting, and then almost a year of training, Poppy graduated as Bobbie’s disability assistance dog in November.
“Support Dogs are amazing,” Bobbie says.
“They are very understanding and tailor the training to what people actually need, finding solutions for any problems.”
Now Poppy helps in all sorts of ways, from opening doors and cupboards, helping Bobbie to dress and undress, fetching things for her, picking things up and even loading the washing machine. She can also speak on command to attract attention and go for help if ever Bobbie needs it.
The Star launched its Pounds For Pups campaign last month, to highlight the excellent work Support Dogs is doing in the city, and across the region. We’re asking our readers to help us raise £5,000 towards one dog’s training – and to help to change somebody’s life in the process.
Through its three training programmes – for disability support dogs, autism dogs and seizure alert dogs – the charity uses an entirely reward-based system to teach special dogs to carry out a wide range of tasks that make life safer and easier for its clients.
“I would say to anyone who is thinking about getting help through Support Dogs to just do it,” says Bobbie. “The training is hard work and takes a lot of time but it’s worth it and is so rewarding.
“They help you to rebuild your life, and in doing so it builds confidence. It’s a two-way thing, Poppy and I care for each other. She gives me a goal to get up for in the morning.
“Without Poppy, I found that people didn’t talk to me, they talked about me, over my head as though I wasn’t there. Now with Poppy they talk to me. I’ve got my independence back again and feel confident about going out on my own. I am a human being again, and it’s all thanks to Poppy.”
n Visit Support for Dogs, dontate to find out more about how you can help us reach our £5,000 goal. Alternatively, text SDOG15 – and the amount you’d like to give to 70070, or call 0114 2617800.