Carmela is 5 years old with a progressive muscle wasting disease called LMNA Congenital Muscular. The nature of this disease and regular hospital appointments causes anxiety and sadness. There is a great need for emotional and independence support.
Carmela’s Toy Poodle puppy, ‘Tinker’, joined the Pet to Assistance Dog programme recently. Already, Tinker has helped Carmela focus more on Tinker and less on her disease. Tinker comforts Carmela when she is feeling lonely or poorly. She, sits with Carmela, watching TV, and goes on adventures in her wheelchair. Tinker also provides l support during difficult and emotional changes in Carmela’s disease.
As a long term benefit having Tinker, we hope she can provide independence for Carmela by picking up dropped items, fetching items from other rooms, open doors at home and alerting parents at night if Carmela is in difficulty.
Having had Scoot at Toynbee school has made a very real difference to the lives of many pupils in a variety of ways. Scoot is based in the resource provision for pupils with visual impairment and this in itself has enabled all the pupils to become very familiar and comfortable with having a dog around. This is great preparation for the fact that many pupils with visual impairment will go on in their future lives to work with guide dogs.
Scoot visits many lessons and supports the pupils and teachers in a number of ways. For example, nervous pupils who feel anxious when presenting in front of their peers are more than happy to present to a non-judgemental and tail wagging dog. Additionally, some of our developing readers have made monumental leaps in both their reading and spelling, and literacy in general, by being comfortable in reading 1:1 with Scoot.
Pupils, who for a variety of reasons, have found the transition to a busy secondary school challenging, feel a lot more relaxed and open about talking about what is troubling them when Scoot is present. Our last cohort of exam takers had pupils who were able to get exam ready by having some quiet Scoot time prior to taking their exams and thus improve their outcomes.
Our Helpful Hound Henry has made a huge difference to the wellbeing of both our students and staff here at Beaucroft Special School. Every day he helps our students transition from one place to another calmly and safely. He is always happy to greet people with a ‘Henry Hug’ and puts a smile on the face of everyone who meets him. Having made such a huge impact to our school in just one term, we look forward to seeing the positive effects he will bring over the coming years.
(Neil Palmer, Henry’s Guardian and Teacher at Beaucroft School)
I have Parkinson’s. Molli gives me something to get up for, she makes me laugh, gives me confidence to go out and she alerts my hubby if I fall.
I suffer great anxiety and am forgetful. Molli is training to help with these issues and this will give me much more confidence and a better quality of life.
She will continue to help me Never, Never, Never Give Up
Whisper has changed so many things for the better. She has been life Changing for us all. We can no longer imagine life without her by our side. Without Helpful Hounds we wouldn’t have our yellow bundle of joy and love (not to mention the hair on everything!). I cannot thank Helpful Hounds enough for allowing us to have Whisper as Phoebe’s Assistance Dog.
I had read all about Assistance Dogs, and after many years of chasing children in all directions I imagined a dog could help me track a missing child. I explored the idea of an Assistance Dog, the more I read about how they helped nonverbal children to talk and that they help calm anxiety, the more excited I felt.
A friend really believed that an Assistance Dog would help us, so was on a mission to find us one! A few weeks later Clare emailed about a charity called Helpful Hounds, and that she had spoken to them and we could join their programme. I questioned if I had the time and energy to train my own assistance dog? I did not want to appear ungrateful. ‘A dog is for life not just for Christmas’, I really wanted this, but I had no idea what I was taking on!
I asked the family how they felt about having a puppy…. they were excited and wanted a boy puppy called Alfie, I explained I could not promise them a boy! I arranged to visit Tina, a local Breeder, and her 5 ½ week old puppies. They were sleeping when I arrived, but one little pup sat up and came towards me, he was our puppy! Tina felt his name should be Alpha for new beginnings! They say a dog chooses his family and he certainly did! His Canine surname is ‘Tambetae’ Latin for well blessed. He and his name were perfect, I felt certain this was meant to be! We arranged for Matt & Nicola from Helpful Hounds to meet and check that Alpha was suitable for his task!
We took the boys to meet Alfie. As Isaac is timid, we explained he probably would not show interest in the puppy to begin with. We carried Isaac as 7 puppies and 3 big dogs excitedly circled our legs, but to our surprise our non-verbal little boy said ‘down’ and began laughing, running around, and playing with the dogs, and tried to instruct the dogs to sit just like his brothers!
I felt like I had had a concealed pregnancy, we were so unprepared for a puppy! It was just over a week between our first email and Alfie actually arriving! Alfie fitted in well to our family. 10 days after Alfie joined our family Isaac mounted his Riding for the Disabled (RDA) Horse, Poppy, for the first time. Previously, he had been too frightened. After RDA, a little voice said, ‘poppy fun!’. I did not recognise the voice, I looked at Isaac and he said again ‘mummy poppy fun!’. His voice was different, it was calm. Isaac had never spoken anything other than a single highly motivating word such as ‘Ice cream’, ‘drink’, or ‘cake’. Isaac had just spoken for the very first time to express his feelings. Isaac and Alfie have partnered well. Issacs confidence and speech has developed rapidly as he has learnt to instruct Alfie to ‘sit’, ‘lie down’, ‘wait’, ‘stay’, ‘eat’, and ‘drink’. If Isaac begins to cry with frustration, Alfie will come to Isaac and sit with him. Isaac will wrap himself around Alfie. Alfie, now alert’s me if Isaac or my boys need help or are in danger. All my children enjoy snuggling up with Alfie, he is as described on the box, ‘very comforting and calming’ for our family.
Alfie has four exams before he fully qualifies as an Assistance Dog at approximately 18-24 months of age, Puppy foundation (which we have completed), Bronze, Silver & Gold and finally public access. Helpful Hounds Assistance Dogs are really supportive, they come to us regularly to check on Alfie’s progress.
Attending puppy training classes has even inspired me with new ways to train my children, our sweet jar at home is now called kiddie Kibble!
Dexter is a three year old retriever, who we have owned since he was 8 weeks old. He was introduced to our home with a view to training him to assist my autistic son. Having a friend, who asks nothing of you, other than cuddles and belly rubs, has been invaluable to my son, and his meltdowns and anxiety have decreased dramatically. It is hoped that once Dexter has completed his training, he will be able to assist my son in accessing situations that others take for granted, such as using public transport, or going shopping.
Since joining Helpful Hounds’ Owner Training Programme, Dexter is learning new skills, under their guidance, and has become a bit of a local celebrity. Their support has been constant, and they are always available to offer support and advice.
Hi we are The Spicer family. Barnum joined our family in July 2019 as an 8week puppy. He is now very much ‘one of the family’& we can’t imagine him not being here with us (Jan 2020). Barnum has become a brother to our 2 sons both of whom he is ‘in training’ for. Alfie is 10 & has Down Syndrome, George is 7 & has autism. Barnum has already made a difference to our household, not just the mess, the noise & the smell !!!!! but in valuable ways too. While he is currently training as a ‘good puppy’ & has not started his ‘specific needs’ training he has himself positively reacted to George’s meltdown episodes & instantly wants to be with George when these are happening – he stands next to him licking and nuzzling him. In return George cuddles with him and the screaming eventually becomes laughter – who can resist a tongue up their nose????? Barnum has also given George more confidence when we are out & about.
We hope ultimately that Barnum will also allow us to be able to give Alfie a level of independence when we go out. Alfie has no road safety awareness – he will stop look listen & then carry on crossing the road even if a vehicle is coming towards him. We hope that in the future Barnum will be trained to not let Alfie cross the road in these situations much in the way that a Guide Dog does with a blind person.
Both my husband and I are not dog lovers, so it was with very careful consideration that we took the daunting steps into getting a dog for my daughter and embarking on the “Owner Trained Programme” with Helpful Hounds. Our 9-week ball of fluff arrived home in May. I can’t say it’s been easy. There have been major changes to our daily routines with exercising, feeding, training etc….don’t mention the muddy paw prints, the chewed post, the wanting to go for a wee at 6am!!!!
Nicola and Matt have held our hands from the get-go. There is still a long way to go but our ball of fluff is now a 9-month furry friend that doesn’t leave my daughter’s side. He is slowly learning the tricks of his trade and we couldn’t imagine life without him. In Leah’s words “Leeson makes my heart sing”. We couldn’t do it without Nicola and Matt’s expert guidance and unending support. Their care and patience on the other end of the phone is like a much needed hug.