Helping the community four paws at a time
Living with a disability can be isolating at times. But through the work of Guide Dogs Tasmania, there’s a crew of canine companions out there changing people's lives.
Some of the puppies currently in training are part of a brand new program helping families with autism.
Aimed at kids between three and eight-years-old, the new program will see dogs adopted by families who need a helping hand (or paw).
“Those families are often feeling a little bit isolated and house-bound,” Guide Dogs Tasmania Coordinator, Kim Ryan said.
“The dog is a comforter, so when everything gets too much, the kid can look at the dog and have that comfort.”
Riley is the perfect example. A skin condition meant he couldn’t become a Guide Dog, but he was still perfectly trained and had a beautiful nature.
He now lives with Max, a seven-year-old boy whose autism had become so difficult his family didn’t know what to do.
Riley has become a part of the family and their lives have completely changed.
Max is happier, calmer and his distressing physical meltdowns have reduced.
Autism Assistance Dogs are also trained to keep the child safe when the family is out and about. If the child tries to run away, the dog will sit and a safety mechanism attaching the two will stop the child from potentially running onto a busy road or getting lost in a shopping centre.
The social side of the autism program is another positive step. Making friends and socialising can be tricky for kids with autism, but with their four-legged best friend by their side keeping them calm, it’s often the confidence boost they need.
“Children with autism are very isolated from their peers, but the dog can help a lot with that,” Kim said.
“Other children become interested and people on the street start to talk to them.”
To kick start the new program, Guide Dogs Tasmania reached out through our Community Fund. The money will go towards new coats for the puppies and special training equipment.
Kim and the team has had a lot of fun picking out loud toys to get the puppies used to being around kids. They’re also teaching the dogs fun tricks to play with their young clients such as high fives and passing a large ball back and forth.
There are heaps of ways you can help Guide Dogs Tasmania. They’re always after more puppy raisers and part-time carers, as well as volunteers for their Street Appeal Day, “pup-up” stores and collecting the Guide Dogs money boxes you often see in shops.