2018 is a milestone year for Oxfordshire-based Dogs for Good as the charity proudly celebrates its 30th anniversary. Over the years the work it carries out has transformed the lives of thousands of adults and children with disabilities.
Since 1988, Dogs for Good has created no less than 875 assistance dog partnerships, run many hundreds of family dog workshops, worked with schools and hospitals in the community and been involved in many special projects.
In addition to assistance dog partnerships, Dogs for Good has led the way in developing how dogs can help people with additional needs. In 2004, the charity introduced the first assistance dogs for children to the UK, the first dogs being trained to support children with physical disabilities and shortly afterwards they developed their service for children with autism. Most recently, Dogs for Good has worked in collaboration with Alzheimer Scotland to train dementia assistance dogs.
In order to help more people and recognising that not everyone is able to benefit from the help of a dog 24:7, the charity now trains activity and therapy dogs to work with specialist handlers in settings such as hospitals, schools and social care settings. Through this work, Dogs for Good supports people with a wide range of conditions including learning disabilities, dementia, physical disabilities and autism.
Through Family Dog workshops the charity is able to provide advice and support to help families with a child with autism get the most out of their relationship with their pet dog.
Dogs for Good (formerly Dogs for the Disabled) was the brainchild of founder, Frances Hay, herself disabled and a lifelong animal lover and dog owner. She recognised that the strong bond she enjoyed with her own dogs helped in many ways to maintain her independence and also, that her dog was able to carry out small but vitally important tasks for her such as picking up dropped items and helping to steady her while walking and balance her getting up from a seated position.
This realisation, knowledge and vision inspired Frances to start the charity in 1988, work began in earnest and one year later, a number of physically disabled adults were partnered with dogs. The impact of these partnerships was immediately clear – dogs can make a big difference to improving people’s lives and offer both practical and emotional support.
Dogs for Good client, Ann, is partnered with assistance dog, Twickers and explains: “I’d loved my pet dogs in the past but the bond you get with these dogs is something else. Your self-worth is elevated because you have to care for another life; grooming, walking, feeding, rather than being the one that receives care. Having the dog doesn’t just give me confidence, it gives my husband and daughters confidence, too, because they know I’m not ever on my own. Before, I was just a lady in a wheelchair. Now, I’m Ann with the lovely, clever, amazing dog and my disability fades into the background.”
Dogs for Good Chief Executive, Peter Gorbing says: “Looking ahead to the next 30 years, we intend to share our knowledge and experience with more people as well as providing services directly to those that desperately need it. We’ll use digital and online technologies to support the work and will continue to innovate, share best practice and collaborate with others.”
Dogs for Good is always keen to welcome new recruits who are able to volunteer their time and energy to help create more life-changing partnerships and further the work it carries out. There are many ways to get involved from caring for a puppy or dog or joining a local supporters group.