Helpful Heathcliff is a lifeline for disabled mum Ruth

Ruth Geary with her assistance dog Heathcliff.
Ruth Geary with her assistance dog Heathcliff.

A woman paralysed after falling from a bannister has praised a charity for throwing her a lifeline.

Ruth Geary, 44, from East Boldon, says her life wouldn’t be the same without Heathcliff, an assistance dog who helps her with daily tasks.

He was provided by assistance dog charity Canine Partners, which is celebrating 25 years of transforming lives.

Ruth’s life took a dramatic turn in March 2007 when she tried to slide down the banister in Newcastle’s Union Rooms pub on a night out.

She fell and became instantly tetraplegic, meaning she is paralysed from the neck down with limited use of her arms and no movement in her fingers.

After a six-month stay in hospital, she became a shadow of her former self.

“I required round-the-clock care as I was unable to care for myself, deal with my own personal care and care for my children adequately,” she explained.

“I would avoid eye contact in my local area so I didn’t have to strike up conversation.

“I felt I had nothing to talk about, nothing to offer.

“It was as though the once -confident me had died.

“I felt dead behind the eyes, existing within the shell of my old self.”

Ruth enrolled on an MA counselling course in 2010 and began to turn her life around.

“It was like I switched the ‘on’ button and started to look at how I could make this work,” she said.

After watching a documentary, she applied to Canine Partners for a dog and Heathcliff arrived in 2013.

“A gentle giant, there was an ever willingness to pick up anything I drop without being asked,” she said.

“I tell him constantly that he is good, he is clever and he is kind.

“I no longer have to holler for somebody to pick up my mobile phone, the remote or an item I have dropped.

“My ever-willing friend does it because he wants to. He allows me to be a little more independent.

“We are able to go to the shops together unaccompanied, something I would never have dreamt of before.”

l For more information about Canine Partners, log onto