Joel with Harry on swing seat
Joel and his assistance dog, Harry.

Dogs for Good is calling upon people to help them extend their services to more areas to reach twice as many people in local communities.

A charity which trains and provides assistance dogs to support people with a wide range of disabilities has launched an ambitious plan to double their provision.

Dogs for Good, has been giving the gift of independence to people with a wide range of disabilities for over 30 years by providing them with a faithful four-legged friend.

The new campaign is called “Imagine If”, which is being led with Joel and Harry’s inspirational story, will involve a public appeal.

The organisation, which has training centres in Oxfordshire, Bristol, and Warrington, trains assistance dogs to support adults and children with a range of disabilities, including autism, across the UK.

The dogs provide practical every day support to people such as helping them to open automatic doors to get into buildings, getting dressed and undressed, fetching post, reminding people to take their medication, lifting things that have been dropped on the floor and even helping to wake them up in the morning and place dirty laundry in the basket!

Dogs for Good already has 350 one-on-one working partnerships in communities across the UK.

They also have a team of community dogs and specialist handlers that help people to improve their independence, wellbeing and skills and they currently support 3,000 people through this service. These teams work in colleges and schools with learning difficulties, with people with dementia, in hospitals providing therapeutic care and more.

The charity also offers support and training to families of children with autism through dog training and on- going support so that more people are able to benefit from the power of well-trained dogs. This service supports over 1,000 families and runs workshops all over the UK.

Brain damaged at birth, Joel (21) from Amersham, Buckinghamshire 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.

Joel was 19 when he got his assistance dog, Harry, and they have been inseparable ever since with a really strong bond between them.

His dad Jon, said: “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 assists 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 by, for example, pushing the button for the automatic doors to open at the bank and accompanies him to Westminster University, where Joel is doing a course in Fine Art, majoring in photography, and when he meets up with friends in cafes and pubs.

Dogs for Good receives thousands of enquiries every year from people who desperately need their help but unfortunately, they can’t help everyone.

Peter Gorbing, Dogs for Good chief executive, said: “Imagine if everyday tasks were so challenging or physically demanding they affected your quality of life.

“For many people living with a disability in the UK today that is their reality.

“A quarter of disabled people say they do not frequently have choice and control over their daily lives; when to get dressed, when to go out, when to do the everyday things that we all take for granted.

“Now imagine if a specially trained four-legged friend could restore your independence.

“Dogs for Good receive thousands of enquiries every year from people who desperately need our help.

“We know great things happen when you bring dogs and humans together: more independence and a vastly improved quality of life.

“People are amazed when they see what our highly trained dogs can do for their owner, from opening doors, fetching dropped items like a purse or keys, to helping them to take off their jacket and undress at the end of a long day.

“It is undeniable that carrying out these simple tasks can make a huge difference to someone with a disability. But our dogs’ impact reaches far beyond the purely practical support that a specially trained dog can offer. They give the gift of independence.

“Our vision is of a world in which everyone and every community is able to benefit from the help of a trained dog.

“We are appealing to people to help us to train and provide more amazing, life-changing dogs.”

For more information visit www.dogsforgood.org/joelandharry