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A Trip To London and the Paralympics 2012

by Lizzie Owen

Well, what an amazing summer of sport we’ve had?  Who else was glued to the TV watching the Olympic and Paralympic Games?  Who else got no work done for about a month, because they were glued to said TV?  I certainly was, but also Frodo and I were fortunate enough to visit the Paralympic Games in person!


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Me, Frodo and Primary school friend, Mand (who is also Chairperson of my Supporters Group) at the Paralympics

Some of you may have read about Frodo (my Dog for the Disabled) and I in Andi’s wonderful article (http://www.londondogforum.co.uk/lizzie-and-frodos-story-c843.html ) on here.  Or, you may have come across us on Facebook or Twitter.  ‘In a nutshell’ – I have Osteogenesis Imperfecta (Brittle Bones).  Frodo is my second Dog for the Disabled, and enables me to live independently.

Frodo and I were extremely lucky to get Paralympic tickets in the first ballot, last year.  We’d applied for wheelchair tennis, basketball and rugby – unfortunately, we didn’t get the tennis.  If any of you saw wheelchair basketball and rugby coverage on the TV, it is quite brutal!

We spent two weekends down in London – one watching the wheelchair basketball, and one watching the wheelchair rugby.  We’d also ‘bribed’ friends to come down to London with us – we were a bit worried about doing something as huge as London 2012 on our own!

This trip was quite a big deal for me – not just because it was London 2012, and the opportunity of a lifetime, but up until three and a half years ago, I’d never been on a train on my own, nor had I stayed in a hotel on my own.  Bella (Frodo’s predecessor) was quite a sensitive soul, and my life was quite different back then (university, then work).  In April 2009, Frodo and I decided to ‘bite the bullet’, and go down to Banbury (where Dogs for the Disabled is based) – our first ‘solo’ train trip, and hotel stay.  We’ve not looked back since – we go down to Banbury several times a year, we’ve been to Crufts for the last three years, and we go to Brittle Bone Society Conferences.  The prospect of going to London was pretty huge (and scary) though.  The only time I’d ever stayed overnight in London before, was in hospital.  Now I was going voluntarily.  I’d never been on a Tube before.  How would I cope?  How would Frodo be?


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Frodo and me on the Jubilee Line

Frodo just seemed to take it all in his stride.  Things like that – he seems to step-up a level.  He seems to enjoy the challenge, and a change of scenery.  One of our friend’s (Sue – we were at Uni together) had got us tickets to see the football during our first visit.  Sue and I watched the seven-a-side football, and the wheelchair basketball.  Mand (a friend from Primary School, and also Chairperson of our Leicestershire Dogs for the Disabled Supporter Group (http://www.dogsforthedisabled.org/support-us/give-your-time/local-volunteer-supporter-groups/existing-supporter-groups/leicestershire-supporter-group/ ) came to see the wheelchair rugby with us.  Frodo had never been to any sporting events before attending the Paralympic Games – I wasn’t sure how he’d react.  I just took his blanket, Nylabone, water and some Rescue Remedy (just in case) in to each event – he settled really quickly.


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Me, Frodo and Mand about to eat at Jamie's Italian in Stratford

As a Registered Assistance Dog, Frodo has full access rights.  So, it wasn’t a problem taking him in to the Olympic Park where the football and rugby was, or the North Greenwich Arena where the basketball was.  Thanks to the fantastic work our friends, Wendy, with Dog for the Disabled ‘Udo’, and Karen, with Medical Detection Dog ‘Coco’, had undertaken with LOCOG, all provisions were in place when visiting the venues with an Assistance Dog.  There were two dog relief areas at the Olympic Park, and one at the North Greenwich Arena.  The Security Staff, Armed Forces, Police Officers and Games Makers directed us to these relief areas, and the water fountains, where I could fill up Frodo’s water bottles.  At the rugby, a Games Maker directed us to seats where there was more room for Frodo (these also had fabulous views for ‘us humans’).

For those of you with a regular pet dog, travelling on the train, tubes and DLR network is accessible to all dogs.  When travelling on the tube, I would advise you to take plenty of water for your dog to drink – it can get rather warm down there.  I wouldn’t advise that you use the escalators with your dog – he may get his paws trapped on the moving stairs.  It would be much safer for you to use the regular stairs, or lifts.

We stayed in the Express by Holiday Inn, London Docklands.  There is a £25 per night fee for a pet dog to stay at this establishment.  This hotel had got a convenient ‘bush’ out the front where Frodo could ‘relieve himself’.  In our experience, the Intercontinental Hotel Group (which owns these hotels) is fairly accessible – both for wheelchair users and Assistance Dogs.  Some allow pet dogs at a charge, including this London one, and the one we regularly stay at in Banbury.


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Heading to Olympic park (Me, Frodo and 'not so old' Uni friend, Sue)

So, London for Frodo and I was the experience of a lifetime!  Everything about it was simply amazing – the venues, the people, the atmosphere!  Before I was partnered with Frodo, I wouldn’t have dreamt of doing anything like that.  My independence and general enjoyment of life is thanks to Frodo and Dogs for the Disabled.  I know money is tight for a lot of people at the moment but please, if you are able, consider making a donation (http://www.dogsforthedisabled.org/support-us/ ) to Dogs for the Disabled.  There are so many more disabled adults, children, and children with autism, who could benefit from being partnered with a Dog for the Disabled.  Also, a massive ‘thank you’ to London Dog Forum, for agreeing to 10% of advertising revenue to be donated to Dogs for the Disabled.

I guess the big question for Frodo and I ought to be – where to next?


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