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Laura’s journey with disabilities and training Summer


of you may have read on the front page of our website that Im autistic! I was diagnosed at 19 years old leading to a lot of confusion about diagnosis and with no support growing up. I had a serious reaction to a virus in late 2018 that caused fibromyalgia, I used a wheelchair, crutches and a walking stick to recover which took 3 years. I also have a brain malformation called Arnold Chiari malformation which I have had since birth, dyslexic, dyspraxia and Irlens syndrome. I’m sharing these as many of you will have the same disabilities and want direct input and advice from someone who has been there and done it.

Before dog training, I had worked with horses and been interested in animals from my first breath! From around 14 I became interested in animal training working mostly with backing horses and liberty training - a lot of the same skills of dog training today, socialisation and shaping behaviour.

In 2015 I joined the assistance dog community chatting to handlers on instagram and Facebook, before owner trained assistance dogs had been legally recognised on any document, it was a confusing world. Thankfully soon after documents were amended and owner trained assistance dogs began to become more common. When I decided to get Summer, there were only 250 people in the community.

I approached Summers breeder - Flomiss golden retrievers in early 2018 requesting to be put on a waiting list. We were and Summer’s litter was born March 2018. I travelled to see her at 6 weeks and chose her due to her outstanding intelligence, calmness and wanting to fall asleep on me for the entire visit. Summer was my first dog, my previous family dogs I would class now as being bite risks, I had minimal contact with them. So I really did jump in the deep end!

I brought Summer home at 8 weeks old and we went through the normal processing of puppyhood. I used my skills of equine training to socialise her appropriately, train her completely to a level of advanced obedience by 6 months old. Looking back, I made quite a few mistakes, I wasn’t knowledgeable at all on puppy burnout and did almost burn out Summer’s attitude to working. Although I managed to raise an outstandingly well rounded, enthusiastic and hard working dog with no input from a professional trainer or even the internet!

Summer’s tasks allowed me to move out for a year, complete an entire university degree, make friends, recover from CFS and fibromyalgia, has enabled a stability in my life I never thought possible, build an entire life, future and business for me - I owe everything to my girl (I am writing this with a very big smile).

I slowed down and made steady progress with Summer until 18 months old. I then decided that something needed to change within the support that was available for owner trained dogs. I had seen many of my friends join organisations that would pop up and disappear a few months later, the organisations would have strict levels, have no resources, request videos and return with a legally invaluable certificate all for a very expensive price. I called these ‘pop up organisations’ and thankfully there aren’t many anymore.

In late 2019 I opened Summers Spirit - the first phase of our business that changed named to Wild Spirit Dog Training CIC 6 months later. My goal was to provide the most personalised and customisable support possible for the most affordable price - I think we achieved this very well.

The rest to date is current! Im currently finishing a BSc in Biology, Animal behaviour and will end with a title of BSc Canine Behaviourist : Cognitive Neurobiologist which is a mouthful Im proud to say.

I hope that one day all of you blossom with the help of your assistance dog too.

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