Three of our life-changing assistance dogs featured in our BBC Lifeline Appeal in May; Jacqui and her beloved Duke; Samuel and the beautiful Heather and finally, the incredible pairing of Joel and Caddie.
The appeal was presented by Chris Packham who, as a big dog-lover himself, totally understands the power of the human-dog bond, and captured the amazing things that can happen when we bring people and dogs together.
Jacqui and assistance dog Duke
At the age of 41 Jacqui was diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis, which caused her to lose the ability to walk. Prior to diagnosis, Jacqui had been a very active person; she was an accomplished Latin dancer, horse rider and walker. The loss of her mobility was devastating and Jacqui’s mental health suffered.
The turning point came for her when she heard about Dogs for Good and successfully applied for an assistance dog. From the moment Duke arrived, her life changed. Alongside the practical tasks he could do for her, he helped to repair Jacqui’s confidence and ease her grief. “The world suddenly became brighter and I started to feel more like myself.” she says. She was suddenly able to get out and about and found that everywhere she went people would stop and talk to her.
Says her husband: “Emotionally, Duke gave me my wife back; he’s a godsend, an absolute godsend.”
Joel and autism assistance dog Caddie
14-year old Joel has autism. He describes his assistance dog Caddie as “my special friend, my Super Dog.” He says, “This world I live in, I find hard, I find everything hard, but Caddie keeps me calm and keeps me safe.”
Caddie enables Joel to safely go out with family, as attached to Caddie’s special harness, he can’t bolt or run off. Caddie is Joel’s constant friend; always by his side. Caddie rests his head on Joel if Joel feels anxious; an action which Joel finds deeply reassuring.
When the family are out and about, people see Joel with Caddie and they are instantly more compassionate and tolerant because they’re aware he needs special support. This year, Joel has happily gone into a café and ordered a drink for the first time. Another recent breakthrough was at the dentist; with Caddie’s reassuring presence, Joel opened his mouth and allowed the dentist to touch his teeth for the first time ever!
Samuel and Heather
Like most young boys, nine year-old Samuel was a human whirlwind and liked nothing better than playing football and rugby with his friends. However during one particular rugby match he suffered a spinal stroke, which has left him reliant on a wheelchair.
Samuel was partnered with assistance dog Heather in 2017 and she’s helped him regain his independence and confidence. She retrieves dropped articles, removes clothing and pulls his wheelchair to him, which means he no longer has to ask for as much help from his parents or older siblings. She’s also acted as a motivator during physio sessions. The first time she accompanied him, he doubled the amount of steps he took and took them in half the time it had previously taken him!
She’s also made a big impact on the family as a whole, says mum Ali: “It’s a far less stressful house with Heather here. She’s such a cheeky girl and makes us laugh every day. She’s perfect.”
30 years changing lives
Dogs for Good has been making life changing differences for people with disabilities since 1988. Help us create more partnerships like Jacqui and Duke, Joel and Caddie, and Samuel and Heather, Donate today.