Pets bring their owners happiness in all kinds of ways – but for Judith Margolis, Blue Cross rescue dog Fudge is not only a trusty companion, he’s her lifeline to the outside world.

When the former university lecturer started to need a wheelchair due to a progressive brain disorder 13 years ago, she felt totally isolated and unable to leave her home.

“You become invisible in a wheelchair,” she said. “Sixty-five per cent of people say that if they see someone in a wheelchair they won’t talk to them because they don’t know what to say, so it’s very lonely.

“Bearing in mind my profession was teaching, I was used to interacting with people all the time so it was really, really difficult.”

Judith, 66, who has cerebella ataxia – a rare condition which affects coordination – became increasingly depressed until, five years ago, she decided to rehome a dog.

Alfie, an abandoned lhasa apso puppy found tied up outside a rescue centre, became her saviour and was trained by the charity Support Dogs to provide assistance to Judith.

Judith and Fudge out on a walk

He changed her life instantly but sadly went blind at a young age, leaving Judith cut off once again. “It seemed to happen overnight and all of the sudden I became invisible again,” she explained.

So Judith contacted Support Dogs for help and together they found border terrier-cross-pug Fudge at our Thirsk rehoming centre in Yorkshire. He had been given up at 14 months for having too much energy, which Support Dogs and Blue Cross thought would be best channelled into work as an assistance dog.

Rachael Myers, Training and Behaviour Coordinator at Blue Cross in Thirsk, explained: “We could see Fudge was a highly intelligent dog who needed jobs to do. We felt he would be best placed in a working home so that he would not get frustrated or bored. He was such a fun character and loved by everyone during his time here at Blue Cross. We are delighted that he is now happily in a new home where his busy nature is being put to such good use."

Judith with Fudge sitting on her lap
Fudge was given up by his previous owners because he had "too much" energy, but Support Dogs and Blue Cross knew this could be put to good use to help Judith.

Danny Anderson, Fundraising Manager at Support Dogs, said: “We work with a variety of dogs, including those from rescue centres or unwanted pets. We don’t have our own breeding programme and love being able to give an amazing dog a second chance and transform them into a lifesaver.”

Fudge went to live with Judith in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, alongside her husband Irv and Alfie in 2016.

Training had its ups and down; challenges included keeping Fudge focussed when out and about as he would bark and try to play with other dogs he met.

Fudge taking off Judith's socks

But he quickly took to fetching things for Judith, who is the chair of Disability Cambridge and a weekly volunteer at her local branch of the MS Society, and soon became an enormous help to her around the house.

And eventually, after six attempts, Fudge made the grade as an assistance dog and was given his blue Support Dogs vest, which he now wears with pride.

“It was just the social stuff that took about 18 months to get right,” Judith said.

At home, Fudge fetches the phone for Judith, brings her slippers to her, helps to take off her socks, trousers and jumpers and opens and closes doors and gates.

Judith talking to a member of the public out on a walk
Judith says that having Fudge means that she is no longer "invisible" when she's out and about as he is a talking point which enables her to interact with people

Judith said: “Fudge is trained to bring me the phone so that I can get help when I need it. That’s a major thing in my life as my husband feels that he can go out, when before he wasn’t very happy about leaving me.

“He does all kinds of other fetching and carrying for me and picks things up if I drop them. He’ll bring me his lead when we’re going out and even puts his own toys away when I ask him to.”

And for a dog that struggled to contain his excitement at seeing others on four legs, he now has the best recall of any dog Judith has known and zooms back to her at lightning speed on walks, whatever the distraction.

Fudge assists Judith with her shopping also

Fudge has also provided unexpected pain relief for Judith.

“I get a lot of pain in my legs, and I needed pain killers for it but I don’t need them anymore because he sits on my leg in the evening and the warmth and the pressure helps with the pain. I didn’t realise but the drugs that I was taking were making my head foggy and after I stopped taking them it was like a fog lifting,” she said.

But it’s the difference Fudge has made to Judith’s confidence in getting out and about and socialising that is the most precious.

She continued: “With a dog by my side people stop and ask me about him, and it starts conversations. He comes everywhere with me. We’re a team.

Judith with Fudge and her retired support dog, Alfie
Judith with Fudge and her retired support dog Alfie

“I think to say that he has saved my life is a cliché but actually, I think he has. Because without Fudge I would probably not go out and not see anybody, and I’m quite a positive person, but without people and doing things it’s very easy to sink into depression if you’ve got cerebella ataxia.

“And it’s easy to say ‘well I’m just going to sit here and not do anything’, but with a dog I have to get up and go out, and just that pressure alone makes such a difference. So he’s saved my life, really.

“He is the most loving, adorable dog I have ever had. He sits on my lap all the time, and loves to be stroked. I’ve had lots of dogs in the past but never had one quite like Fudge.”

Fudge hands Judith her phone

— Page last updated 4/04/2019