Our charity partner Dogs for Good trains dogs to help people overcome specific challenges and enrich and improve lives and communities. Since 2005 we have awarded £234,612 to Dogs for Good to help them train life-changing dogs.
One of the young people who has been helped by Dogs for Good is Billy.
Soon after he was born Billy (10) was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy which affects his whole body. He can’t walk, talk or do anything for himself and he also has epilepsy, so he can never be left alone.
His brave and devoted mother Jess and dad Lee have provided continuous, full-time care for him since he was born, lifting and carrying him from his chair to the bathroom, fetching everything for him and teaching him to hold up one arm for ‘yes’ and the other for ‘no’ so he can make his needs and wishes known.
When a friend whose daughter has a hearing dog told Jess there were also assistance dogs for disabled children, she found Dogs for Good on the internet and applied for a dog to help her and Billy.
“Ella’s arrival changed the atmosphere in the house completely,” explains Jess, “and not just for Billy; she has a wonderful calming effect on him but her presence has also made the whole family more relaxed.”
Billy used to panic on journeys in the car, but now Ella rests her head on his lap and his fears are allayed. “We’ve even been on holiday with her and she just makes life better every day for Billy and for all of us.”
Billy likes to be outside and loves taking Ella out. With Billy well wrapped up because he feels the cold, the family now go out together rather than Billy staying at home with one of his parents. Sister Emily can go to the playground regularly and play freely because Billy has his special friend with him. When Ella is running free to and fro between them, she always runs straight to Billy. “She seems to know how much this means to him,” says Jess.
“People used to stare at Billy and just walk away. Now they look at him and Ella, smile and some come up to talk. When I explain how he can answer simple questions, Billy enjoys people asking about his dog and smiles and laughs with them too. Ella makes interaction with other people possible and it’s so good for him,” adds Jess.
Before Ella came, Billy frequently woke and struggled to get back to sleep. Now Ella sleeps with him, her presence is so reassuring he’s much better at getting back to sleep by himself.
Ella also helps by fetching a bag containing Billy’s clothes and bringing his slippers. They play ‘chase the sock’ together (he wiggles his foot) when she pulls off his socks, making him laugh out loud. She gives him a ‘high five’ when he gets home from school, opens the door so that Jess can carry him into the sitting room and then settles down with him on a quilt, helping him relax and recover from his exhausting day.
“Billy loves to stroke Ella,” says Jess, “which is really good for him as it encourages him to stretch out his arm and open up his hands (which are otherwise closed), and it makes him feel better too.”
Billy can’t go to play with people his own age and used to be quite lonely. Ella has had such a positive impact on his life. “If you ask him if she’s his best friend, he enthusiastically signals ‘yes’ and Ella seems to know how much he loves her. She’ll always choose to lie close to him and would rather be lying on the hard floor beside his chair rather than on her comfy bed.”
“We simply can’t imagine life without her now, she’s part of the family and has had a positive impact on every one of us,” says Jess.