Angela Moody has been coping with an autoimmune disease for the last 40 years, 30 of them completely on her own. She is constantly in pain, and has an extremely difficult time moving around. But thanks to a bit of good fortune, she now has a service dog and companion who has changed her life by doing painful tasks for her.
The 70-year-old UK woman’s condition started in her late twenties, and worsened over time. Once a nurse, she was wheelchair-bound before she even finished the English and drama degree she was working on. She feels pain in her joints whenever she moves, making it incredibly difficult to get dressed, bathe, cook, and do errands.
She was forced to rely on the kindness of strangers to help her complete tasks while out in public, and it wasn’t until someone happened to give her a pamphlet for Canine Partners, a Hampshire-based charity that trains service dogs for people with disabilities.
Now Angela has been paired up for the last six months with Odessa, a two-year-old Labrador. This makes her job as a visitor’s chaplain at Winchester Cathedral much easier. Odessa can pick up and carry things for her. When they are at home, the pup assists her in pulling off her socks and sweaters, brings her slippers, and answers the phone.
“I tend to get holes in the sleeve because she gets enthusiastic,” Angela said.
Odessa picks up her food dish when it’s empty and is learning how to unload the washing machine. Shopping trips are much easier, because Odessa can reach bottom shelf items much more easily, and can give cashiers Angela’s bank card.
“She used to give in my debit card [at the till] and I got through four because unfortunately she sunk her teeth into them so I would go into the bank and they’d say ‘another bank card Angela?’ “She’s got her own purse now – I think four is enough.”
Angela still receives some help from caregivers, but her dog is allowing her to keep much more of her independence. When out in public, people often take notice of Odessa’s abilities.
“I sometimes get a little audience when she’s doing things, often children, but sometimes adults, but I won’t ever ask her to do things simply to show people what she can do,” Angela said.
Having a dog has opened up a new world of socializing for her by giving her something to chat about with fellow dog walkers.
“She’s changed my life, not just by the things she does for me, but I would say a lot of it is the companionship,” she said. “She’s an incredible dog. It’s a partnership.”