Since 2005 we have awarded Dogs for Good grants totalling over £235,000 to provide assistance dogs to children and young people with disabilities. Dogs for Good provide assistance dogs to support children, young people and adults with a range of disabilities and also children with autism.
Meet Oliver and his assistance dog Rosie
“She’s awesome!” says 14 year old Oliver of his assistance dog Rosie, “she’s made my life so much better.”
Oliver was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a condition for which there is no cure, which gradually wastes the muscles of those affected, at just three years old. “It’s such an awful condition,” says mum Lisa. “It’s invisible at first, so it’s not obvious and hearing the diagnosis was just terrible.”
Just two years later Lisa saw Daniel, also affected by Duchenne, with one of the charity’s assistance dogs Yogi win the first ever Friends for Life competition at Crufts and she knew that one day a dog could help Oliver. She found Dogs for Good on the internet, found out about the application process and waited until the time was right.
Gradually Oliver’s condition deteriorated and he began to use a manual wheelchair. Accepting his loss of mobility was very difficult for him. Lisa knew that it wouldn’t be long before he would need a power chair and that it was time to apply for an assistance dog.
She showed Oliver on the charity’s website all the things an assistance dog could do to help him and Oliver was thrilled at the idea. “He was so excited”, says Lisa, “I had to tell him it couldn’t happen quickly; we would have to wait. Just a year later the smart black LabradorXGolden Retriever arrived and the family’s life changed.
“Life was so difficult for Oliver before Rosie came,” explains mum Lisa. “Mornings were harrowing. It was really difficult getting him up and motivating him to go to school. Now Rosie gets him up and the first thing I hear in the morning is Oliver’s giggles as Rosie jumps on his bed and encourages him to start the new day.”
Before Rosie arrived, Oliver was afraid to sleep alone downstairs because he knew he couldn’t get to Lisa if he needed her in the night. So single mum Lisa spent a whole year sleeping on a mattress in his room. Rosie immediately slept alongside Oliver and he knows she can help or get his mum in the night. “The confidence and reassurance Rosie gives Oliver at night means I’ve been able to sleep in my own bed now for nearly a year. Life is so much better with Rosie,” says Lisa, “her presence and the help she gives Oliver has totally changed my life too.”
Rosie collects the TV remote for Oliver, takes messages between him and Lisa, picks up anything he drops and helps take off his clothes. Oliver has taught her to turn on the bathroom light and is currently teaching her to collect and pass the towel and flannel to him in the bath, so that he can enjoy some privacy in the bathroom.
But Rosie does so much more than help him physically. Oliver used to feel lonely and hated going out in his power chair because he felt so self-conscious. “I understand why younger children stared before,” he says, “but now people don’t stare any more.” He’s happy to go out now, chats happily to people about his special dog, and loves walks with Rosie and throwing a ball on a string for her in the park. If they’re at the supermarket he’s confident to go off with Rosie, while Lisa shops, to check out the new magazines and DVDs.
“I’m so proud of both of them,” says Lisa. “Oliver realises his brother Adam and I need some time to ourselves and will tell us to take some time out because he’s got Rosie for company. Rosie has transformed all our lives; she’s the last piece of our family jigsaw.”