“We all love Harry but there’s only one big love in his life… and that’s my brilliant son, Joel.”
Brain damaged at birth, Joel was diagnosed with cerebral palsy quadriplegia, which means he has difficulty controlling movement in his arms and legs, his speech is slurred and he also has associated dyspraxia. “After he was born my wife and he were taken into special care. We were all in shock and had no idea what the future might hold,” recalls Joel’s dad, Jon.
During the early days at hospital, Jon and his wife, Fran were also told that there was a strong possibility that they might not ever take their son home. But Joel had other ideas. Eventually, after four long weeks, he and Fran came home and his parents started to learn that while Joel might have difficulties in certain areas, there wasn’t anything wrong with his determination!
Jon and Fran had heard about Dogs for Good because they sometimes looked after a Dogs for Good assistance dog belonging to a friend of theirs. They saw the difference it made to their friend and decided to apply. “We were all keen to have a dog and to be able to have a dog that could help Joel sounded fantastic.”
The team at Dogs for Good called with news that they thought they had a couple of strong matches for Joel. “We arranged to visit the centre and met two dogs – Angus and Harry – who had come to the end of their training,” recalls Jon. “Both were incredibly clever and wonderful dogs, but there was something about Harry… “
Dogs for Good then arranged a home visit; again with Harry and one other dog. “Harry came in and sat down right beside Joel. He made it perfectly clear that Joel was the right person for him and our house was where he wanted to be!” laughs Jon.
18 months later, Harry and Joel are a force to be reckoned with and their bond is unbreakable. “They’re such a strong team – it goes beyond being just friends,” explains Jon. “It was clear right from the very first moment they met each other at Dogs for Good. Harry definitely chose Joel and he made the right choice. Their personalities are very similar – determined, single-minded, mischievous and a lot of fun!”
Harry helps Joel in many ways such as retrieving dropped items, helping him on and off with his clothes and pulling the duvet off in the mornings when he needs to get up. He also helps Joel when they’re out and about doing all the things Joel’s involved in such as volunteering, attending University – Joel is doing a course in Fine Art, majoring in photography – and meeting up with friends.
“People do tend to stare at Joel because he’s a bit wobbly on his feet and while he’s never really had a problem with it, now he has Harry, people are staring at his handsome pal and not him!” laughs Jon. He’s always there when Joel needs him and he’s become an extension of Joel.”