Cheeky, funny, strong-willed, 14 year old Grace is a force to be reckoned with. She’s a girl who’s not going to let disability stand in her way, although life is still a struggle at times.
Grace has cerebral palsy, a condition which impacts on every part of her body. While a steely determination means Grace has found many ways to work around her disability she still requires a wheelchair and a great deal of support as mum Simone explains: “Grace has always wanted to be fiercely independent, but she has to rely on others for a huge amount of help and she’s struggled to come to terms with that.”
Three years ago,” says Simone, “Grace was so low she refused to go out of the house, even to school. She was so angry and frustrated. Some mornings I would resort to taking her to school in pyjamas as I couldn’t get her into her school uniform. She hardly slept; I used to drive her to my parents in the early hours of the morning just to get some rest.”
In March 2014, Scooby a golden retriever cross German shepherd, arrived. Looking back, Simone can barely believe the transformation in both their lives.
Simone explains: “One of the first things I noticed was when Scooby helped Grace get dressed and undressed: her frustration was replaced with a new found composure and laughter. Grace loves Scooby to help take her socks off and knows she needs to control her behaviour and concentrate for him to help her. He’ll tickle her toes as he pulls off her socks and she’ll laugh and relax. The old battle to get her into her school uniform has disappeared.”
Prior to Scooby’s arrival, if Grace didn’t want to do something she would become uncooperative. But Simone has cleverly used Scooby’s presence to motivate Grace. Grace never refuses to go out to practise Scooby’s training or give him a free-run and then she has to think about looking out for Scooby. Simone says: “Grace is working very hard to make sure she looks after him and that’s had such a positive effect in all areas of her life.”
“Before Scooby, when we went out, Grace wouldn’t speak to anyone, she was so conscious of her speech. Now, she’s transformed: when we go to the park she knows everyone who owns a dog (and their dog’s name) and she proudly tells them all about Scooby and what he’s doing for her. It’s just fantastic to see!”
And as for Grace, well she couldn’t be more certain that Scooby is the best thing that’s happened to her. “Scooby makes me happy, and that makes me and my mum happy too.”
Learn more about our assistance dogs for children.