An army veteran diagnosed with a psychiatric disability after serving at the height of the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland has had her life transformed for the better by a Shetland-bred assistance dog.
Gen Robertson, 47, of Ireland, Bigton, says her border collie Ben has saved her life “at least twice” by giving advance warning of psychotic episodes and reminding her to take medication.
She is grateful to the isles public and local trainers for supporting her and Ben through the psychological assistance qualifications.
“We are two halves of the same person,” said Ms Robertson of her partnership with Ben. “I would not be here if not for him. He has saved my life at least twice and is just absolutely invaluable – he’s an amazing guy.”
Ms Robertson was in her 20s when, in the 1990s, she passed her basic training in the army and joined the General Service Corps.
Ben – and Veterans With Dogs – came on the scene and her life began to change dramatically.
From her very first meeting with Ben, on a visit to Eileen Tait’s farm in Bigton, it was clear they had a special connection.
“Ben detached himself from the litter and came galloping across to me and sat on my foot,” recalled Ms Robertson.
On a return visit a couple of weeks later, the same thing happened, prompting the former teacher to suggest that “he chose me, really, rather than I chose him”.
The next step was to raise money to cover the cost of attending training camps in Devon with Veterans With Dogs – each trip coming in at around £800-£900, factoring in stays in B&Bs to break up the journey.