A breakthrough partnership that transformed a childhood

Joel, Caddie & Pixel

When autism assistance dog Caddie joined Joel’s family, no-one could foresee how he’d help change the course of Joel’s life, helping him surpass what everyone thought possible.

Joel was seven when he was diagnosed with autism. He also has ADHD, speech, language and sensory impairment and a sleep disorder. These challenges placed a heavy strain on Joel and his family. When Joel turned nine, he was matched with autism assistance dog Caddie, a yellow Labrador x golden retriever with incredible intuition and a gift for making the family laugh.

I’d never seen Joel smile before. The day Caddie joined our family, Joel agreed to go outside into the garden — something he’d refused to do for months — and played with Caddie with a ball. My husband Kevin broke down in tears when he saw it; we both knew Caddie was going to transform our lives.
— Joels’ mum, Janet
This world we live in I find hard, I find everything hard, but Caddie kept me calm and kept me safe.
— Joel

Caddie was expertly trained and matched to Joel’s needs. Caddie would wear a jacket, harness and lead enabling Joel to stay safe with Janet acting as team leader. And Caddie provided a positive focus and routine each day — vitally this helped the family better connect.

Looking back, Caddie’s presence kept us all calm, reducing our stress levels. In turn, that really helped me give the best support I could to Joel. He brought my son back to me in the most extraordinary way.
— Janet
I never thought for one moment that my son would be able to finish school. Now he’s going to college. None of this would have happened without Caddie.
— Janet

BREAKTHROUGH: From being a little boy locked in his own world, Joel has achieved so much with Caddie by his side — including completing his school exams.

With Caddie enjoying retirement, still very much a family dog, young autism dog Pixel has stepped in to support Joel.

He’s still Joel with all his disabilities, but he’s grown into a brilliant young man who has learned to trust himself and above all, accept who he is and like himself.
— Janet
Dogs like Caddie open doors, they connect people, they keep families together, they help make life possible in so many ways. A gift this winter will enable more people to benefit from our dogs.

Support our winter appeal to enable more people to make life possible