Our 

Clients

Che & King

Lobo & Georgie

Sam & Abby

Helen & Bindi

Ranger & Kyle

Natalie & Rufus

Mahe & James

Sienna & Rocco

Lachlan & Lady

Anna & Bella

Bo joined our family in October 2016 . Those with assistance dogs told me our lives would change, but I must admit I was quietly sceptical. However, now these changes have become the norm, I have to keep reminding myself how things are so much better and easier “after Bo” and he really has made a difference in our lives.

Once upon a time, the way we would make Isla keep up a good pace would be to hold her hands and give her a good swing to propel her along while saying  “1, 2, 3 weeeee”. Being 7 and a lot heavier than she was at 3, this was no easy feat. Walking anywhere was painfully slow and frustrating. She doesn’t really like her hand held for a long time so it was hard to keep her on course without touching, exploring and even licking obstacles in her way. It got to the point we had stopped taking Isla out for walks as wasn't really enjoyable.

Now walking is completely different. Tethered to Bo, Isla has the freedom to still touch, or at least try to, but she keeps a steady pace. She is calm and safe, and it's just so much easier.  If she gets distracted or starts wandering off track, which sometimes happens with her poor spatial awareness, I direct her back to her handle on Bo’s harness, and this is enough to keep her on track. We have recently taken Isla on a couple of bush walks which have been made easy with Bo and allowed her to keep up with the rest of us and explore her environment.

When we're out in a over-stimulating environments, Isla cuddles up to Bo and lies on him. On a few occasions, she's even fallen asleep on him in the middle of a cafe or at a busy fair. Sometimes in these types of situations, Isla finds it hard to control her emotions and will react loudly, normally by crying and protesting. With Bo in a down-stay position, she cannot go anywhere and it gives Isla the time to think about making the right choices and accepting a new situation. Even though we still may get “the looks”, I feel comforted knowing people might realise she isn’t a spoilt brat, but a girl with additional needs having a hard time.

"I feel so grateful to have the opportunity of having one of these amazing dogs."

Isla doesn’t run like she did up, however, she is still unpredictable. If she gets scared or has a strong reaction to a situation, she takes flight and runs without thinking. Bo keeps her safe.

Isla’s motor planning is poor. The world can appear chaotic with no clear boundaries, order or meaning. Having Bo slows her down to think about what she is doing, such as crossing a road. There is now hope for her future; for her to be able to navigate on her own with a little help from her dog.

What a relief it is to wake up having a full night's sleep! Isla gets a book read before bed and likes to settle herself, now with Bo on the end of her bed. Around 5.30am when she hears the birds chirping, Isla and Bo make their way downstairs and she lets him outside. No nighttime calling out, no 4.30am wakings, and a much happier Isla (and mummy & daddy)!  There have even been a couple of 6am and 7am lie-ins too which is promising.

After a year, Isla is still sitting beautifully at the table to eat, and delights in calling Bo to come to his bed for her meals.

Isla and Bo’s bond is growing all the time. He chooses to sit by her when she is on the floor on the iPad, playing with toys or watching TV.  She hugs and touches him, and he is very patient throughout all the prodding and sensory exploring! It’s still an effort to get her outside, however when we do, she has a purpose of throwing a toy or jumping on the trampoline with him.  She loves being tethered to him with her belt and is proud he is her special dog.

I feel so grateful to have the opportunity of having one of these amazing dogs.  The reason it has been such a smooth transition for us is the extensive training and upbringing of Bo before he arrived.  We were privileged to have a wonderful team showing us the ropes. Our instructor was warm, patient and knowledgeable, and with her expert training, Bo settled in really easily.  I know that someone is there whenever I need help or have questions.

 
 

"Assistance Dogs do such an amazing job training these wonderful dogs to help make our lives easier."

King saved our lives. We have had our beautiful black Labrador King for just over 2 years now. Cheyenne, my son, is 11 years old and has Autism. He used to be an absconder and a runner, and once ran 5km away from home - it was the most trying time of our lives.

We are truly blessed to have King help Cheyenne. Firstly by being an anchor when they are tethered together so Cheyenne cannot run away. Secondly, Cheyenne has come so far now that he can independently walk King in the Supermarkets and out on the streets with my guidance. Thirdly, he has brought so much calmness, love and happiness to our home.

ADNZT do such an amazing job with training these wonderful dogs to help make our lives easier, as it is such a challenge on a day-to-day basis.

King has changed our lives and we are much richer for having him. He helps us as a family and takes wonderful care of Cheyenne when we are out in public.

--------

King retired in June 2021 and his family shared this message to their beloved dog:

"Thank you King for your 6 years of service with Cheyenne. You were able to stop him from running away and I will be forever grateful to ADNZT for saving our lives and making a miracle happen when we needed it most. You are my best friend King and bring so much joy to our lives. You are officially retired now - 11 years old next month and can fully enjoy your freedom.️"

"The long term gain is amazing. The support is incredible. We are now ‘dog people'"

After almost one year since our initial meeting with ADNZT, and four months of solid fundraising, we welcomed ADNZT Lobo into our family to support our daughter Georgie. She has Autism Spectrum Disorder, Global Development Delay and Speech Delay with hearing issues. Now aged seven, it is 20 months since Lobo entered our lives and the change in Georgie, and our whole family is incredible. No longer able to run away, Georgie quickly learned that cooperation and ‘asking’ to look at things gave her much greater freedom. She has graduated from wearing a body harness to wearing a belt. She is holding Lobo’s harness more and will soon have a ‘harness handle’ of her own to hold as she’s getting taller. When we arrive home, we are starting to allow her to walk Lobo from the car into the house independently.

Lobo is a firm fixture in our community but still gets some interested glances when we venture into town. We now visit the supermarket and hospital confidently and have made multiple cinemas and theatre-type trips.

 

We have been able to teach her to safely cross the road. Lobo has also helped her to learn to wait in a queue. Going to school is a familiar routine now and the other kids at school accept the Georgie & Lobo team without a blink.

For anyone considering whether or not an Assistance Dog would improve their lives…make the call. After one visit, the ADNZT team will know if they can help. The fundraising isn’t insurmountable. The long-term gain is amazing. The support is incredible. We are now ‘dog people’!

 
 

"There is a huge need for the services Assistance Dog New Zealand Trust provides."

My son Lachlan has Cerebral Palsy and Autism. He is awkward on his feet, non-verbal and gets very anxious around people. Lady, his assistance dog, joined us in February 2017 and instantly changed Lachlan’s life, his little sister Isabelle’s life, our lives, and the friends and family around us.

Suddenly Lachlan could participate in events that had been too stressful to undertake before. Five days after Lady arrived, we went to the Night Noodle Market on a Sunday afternoon. It was the first outing that we had ever enjoyed as a family, and we stayed for an hour and a half. Normally one parent would go on outings with our daughter, whilst the other stayed home with Lachlan.

Lachlan was excluded from playing with his peers in the neighbourhood. He was the weird kid in the corner who watched everyone else play at the park etc. Parents used to rush their children past him at the shopping centre in case they ask the “wrong” question.

Suddenly, the dog attracted both adults and children to Lachlan. They would ask to pat his dog and ask him questions about Lady. Lachlan went from being the outsider to the centre of attention. With that, his confidence grew over time.

Now Lachlan will happily go anywhere with us as a family – in fact helping with the weekly shop is one of his favourite things to do. He has the confidence to engage with both children and adults anywhere we go. At the park, once everyone has had a pat with Lady, he runs off to play with the kids now.

 

For the wider community, they get to engage with a disabled child in a way they never did before and understand more about how to communicate. Disability is less frightening. We regularly have people in our suburb come up to us and comment on the changes they see with Lachlan.

 

This is only one tiny aspect of the life changing impact Lady has had on our lives. There is a huge need for the services Assistance Dog New Zealand Trust provides.

"The training and continued support we get from the ADNZT team is fantastic.  We feel so proud and privileged to be an Assistance Dogs family"

We first heard about ADNZT through a friend who had been one of the first families to receive one. Our son James is profoundly autistic, and getting out and about with him was becoming increasingly hard as he would dash off unexpectedly and had no awareness of traffic danger. Family outings were becoming too hard.  Walking James to a local park would take so long to get there and back, and be so physically challenging for me, that it was easier to stay at home.  After talking with the ADNZT team, and other assistance dog handlers, I knew that getting an assistance dog would be a fantastic addition to our family.

Out instructor was amazing with all the time she spent on the phone talking to me and coming down to Wellington to do a ‘trial run’ with James.  It really gave us a clear idea of what it would be like so our expectations would match reality.  The fundraising was daunting and we wondered how long it would be before our dream would be a reality – every day it seemed like ‘if only we had an assistance dog we could do…..”.   In fact, after the last family camping trip, I’d decided we just couldn’t do it again with James – which was a shame as he actually enjoyed most parts of it but the stress of keeping him safe was too much.

To our absolute surprise and delight, the fundraising happened very quickly – our family and friends could also see what a godsend an assistance dog would be for us.  I also think that everyone had wanted to help us in some way – and this was a great opportunity to give us practical support.

Mahe, a great big black lab, has been with us now for just over six months and we can’t imagine life without him.  When we’re out in public with him and James, Mahe brings amazing positive attention to James –  whereas before people would ignore James and his unusual behaviour, now they come over and want to know all about him and Mahe.  We did manage to go camping again as a family, and it was a completely different experience with Mahe to help.  Walks to the beach and back were a breeze, and if we wanted to make sure James didn’t run off while we were having a bbq, we would tether them together for a while.  Mahe seems to have this calming influence over James – when they’re tethered together as a team,  James is very happy to be with Mahe, whereas if I was gripping his hand, he would be agitated and trying to get away.  James has also learned that Mahe is his access to going places – he uses his communication device to ask for ‘Walk with Mahe’ when he wants to go out.

At home and off the lead, Mahe is a normal, silly dog that runs around with his toys – James thinks he’s very funny and giggles at him.  James’  older sister also benefits hugely from having Mahe around.  I know the ADNZT team tries hard to match the dogs with families and I think they've definitely got it right with us.

The ADNZT team trains each dog to a very high standard and puts huge effort into raising awareness for children with disabilities and the difference these dogs can make.  The training and continued support we get from the team is fantastic.  We feel so proud and privileged to be an Assistance Dogs family.

 
 

"Before we got Rocco, we wondered how much a dog could really change things, but when you see everything they can actually do for the child, it’s so much more powerful than you think."

Sienna has 15Q24 micro-deletion syndrome and is the only person in New Zealand with this condition and one of just a few hundred cases in the world. Sienna’s genetic deletion brings with it regular seizures, ADHD, sensory processing disorder and global development delay. While having experienced many surgeries in the first five years of her life due to the medical complications the syndrome has caused, Sienna now only has a lung condition and feeding tube remaining.

“Rocco comes every week to appointments with therapists and to the hospital and helps Sienna to be able to deal with these challenging environments as a calming presence. Shopping malls are another environment Rocco has helped Sienna to manage, as she can now go into a mall and walk around, as opposed to freezing up and not wanting to move in those loud spaces. Previously we’d have to put her in a pram to be able to go places. As she got older, we knew that wasn’t a long-term option and thankfully Rocco has helped her become more independent. He has also increased her speech as she has the responsibility to feed her dog. Rocco has allowed Sienna to have experiences and try different environments that she would never have been able to cope with before.”

For Sienna’s parents, Kirstin and Tim, they know Rocco is not only her best friend and source of encouragement, but also supports her daily needs and ensures her personal safety. Tethered to Rocco, Sienna has managed to walk over 4km for the first time and to slow down and stop before crossing the road. She has even sat through her first full-length movie with Rocco by her side. 

“Before we got Rocco, we wondered how much a dog could really change things, but when you see everything they can actually do for the child, it’s so much more powerful than you think. I’ve had neurologists comment on how she’s now talking. Another doctor at Starship commented on Rocco’s training, as the minute they left the hospital room, Rocco didn’t move an inch until they returned. Doctors have been asking a lot more about our Assistance Dog as they are seeing first-hand the massive impact he is having on Sienna’s life.”

The other struggle for the Opie family has been that you can’t visually see Sienna’s disability. “For instance, Sienna could have a massive outburst in a café and everyone judges you as bad parents as the kid looks normal.” Rocco plays a big role in identifying Sienna's disability and encourages people to be a bit kinder before passing judgement on their behaviour. 

“The Assistance Dogs team are amazing; the level of focus on matching the right dog to Sienna was really impressive. Sienna is really obsessive and affectionate to the extreme, and Rocco is a very chilled out dog and specifically selected to handle her style.” However, the process for The Opie’s being matched with Rocco was a long one as the family had to wait 5 years to reach the top of the waiting list and find a dog that met Sienna’s needs. 

 

"I feel so grateful to have the opportunity of having one of these amazing dogs."

The story of our family’s journey with Assistance Dogs New Zealand starts of course with us, the Jackson’s. Amanda, Ross and our nine year old son Sam.

Sam was born with Down Syndrome but was also diagnosed with Autism shortly before he turned three. Aside from a raft of complex medical issues, it is the Autism that has perhaps been the most difficult aspect of life with Sam. His inability to cope with things outside his normal routine or new environments, the difficulty he has with social interactions and engaging in appropriate or meaningful play, the fact that he is non-verbal and has very limited ways to express himself or communicate with us. These are just some of the aspects of Sam’s Autism that at times have made life not only incredibly difficult, but also extremely lonely and isolating for all of us.

The beginning of this journey with Assistance Dogs started with the discovery that there was even such a thing as an ‘Assistance Dog’, and better yet, an organisation in New Zealand that was training them! In our case, what followed was nearly a two-year process that started with one parent trying to convince the other parent (who wasn’t keen on dogs) that this could possibly be a wonderful thing for our son (who was then seven) and maybe even life-changing for our little family.

It took a lot of convincing, but I finally had agreement to arrange an initial assessment interview and in May of 2010. We met with ADNZT and recently graduated Assistance Dog ‘Dylan’ who was about to be placed with his new family in Auckland. Our Instructor was instantly able to identify ways that an Assistance Dog could have a positive impact on life for Sam, but it was perhaps ‘Dylan’ who played the most crucial role during that assessment. He was of course the perfect example of an obedient, gentle and friendly dog, and probably the one thing that convinced Ross that perhaps this was something we should seriously consider.

I would be lying if I said I’d had absolutely no reservations about this from the beginning. There were times throughout the last year and a half when I seriously wondered how I was going to cope having to look after a dog as well as Sam, particularly when he has been unwell. All I kept thinking was that if we don’t do this, then life will probably continue just as it is and I really didn’t think I could bare that. Fortunately, once we had made the decision to proceed with our application, rather than focus on those concerns, excitement took over and we just couldn’t wait for a dog to be trained for Sam.

During our assessment, the team had explained that they didn’t think any of the dogs they had on their programme at the time would be a suitable match for Sam and that there were several families all currently on the waiting list. They would likely have to find a puppy for him, and whether a dog will prove to be suitable for the specific tasks it will need to perform or the environment where it will be placed, is often not known until the end of their training. Essentially, we were facing a reasonable wait. As it turned out, this was probably the hardest part of the whole process.

Despite the fundraising being a daunting task, we set aside our pride and threw ourselves into it, sending out literally hundreds of emails, writing stories for our local newsletters and papers, and drumming up as much support as we could. We were completely overwhelmed by the phenomenal response we had to our online fundraising page and the support, encouragement and generosity from family, friends and strangers alike.

"By supporting this charity, you’re giving someone like Bella the chance to be able to live a normal life and do what normal kids do. The whole family benefit's from Bella too - she is a delightful, loopy dog and does the silliest things that bring the biggest smile to Bella’s face."

After a chance meeting with another Assistance Dog at a local mall, Tracy and her family knew an Assistance Dog would be perfect for daughter Bella.

Bella has a rare chromosome disorder, so rare that no one else has it. A lot of Bella's life is unknown because of this, for instance, just this year the family discovered Bella has a new seizure disorder. Her condition is so rare that they don’t know what’s coming around the corner. However, one known aspect is called Sensory Processing Disorder.

Tracy explains, "How I explain it is, imagine the sensory stuff in your brain is a cup, every time something happens in your day that involves your senses, it fills up your cup. Once Bella’s cup is full, she can’t handle much of anything. By the time Bella wakes up, her cup is half-full already. So simple, little things you take for granted, like going to the mall, running into the supermarket, or going for a walk are simply too much for her to handle."

Tracy says it’s hard to put into words the difference Anna has made in their lives. Beforehand, it was difficult to leave the house with Bella to do simple, everyday tasks as it overloaded her senses and was unbearable. Now with Anna, she can happily go out with her focus on the dog, visiting the mall for shopping and treats, and being able to ride in the car for four hours (rather than the previous 20 minutes maximum). Autistic meltdowns that used to last two hours now last two minutes with Anna easily calming Bella down.

"The other day I put some money in Bella’s wallet and asked if she wanted to go up to the mall, and for the first time she wanted to go. We bought a few things, took her to a café, picking what she wanted and we had no meltdowns. Being able to leave the house is amazing. I swear we went 6 months without leaving the house except for school drop-offs and it took 2 hours to calm her down enough to feed her. Now she comes home with the dog and does her own thing."

 

Anna has even learnt new skills since being with the family, and is now able to pick up when Bella is about to have a seizure, a new medical development for Bella. The Martin's have had Anna for just over a years now and Anna has become a friend for Bella, who finds it hard to form friendships as she is non-verbal.

"She’s made an enormous difference to the everyday, and opened up our hearts and minds to what else might be possible.."

2020 - what a year! So many ups and downs. In amongst the turmoil, ADNZT called us with some amazing news - in December, COVID-19 willing, the very lovely Whitney would be matched to Hector, our awesome 9-yo son with autism and ADHD. We have been on the waiting list for 5 years. The training programme was intense, challenging and amazing all at once. Our Instructor was an absolute legend - so much knowledge of animal behaviour and service dog training, and so much experience with human behaviour and training humans to work with service dogs! We gained knowledge every day, got to try it out and practice until we got it right, always with ADNZT's love and respect. Aroha mai, aroha atu.

Whitney has fit right in with our family, from that first morning when she woke up Ben and I with the sounds of her tail whacking happily into the walls in our bedroom with two toys in her mouth. She’s kind and loyal, and very relaxed, loves lying on our feet, gives lots of hugs and has picked all the best places in the house and the deck for a snooze. Hector’s little sister loves patting, feeding and generally smooching around with Whitney whenever possible. With the blue jacket, it all changes, in a great way. Whitney puts on her Game Face and gets to work. She is strong, capable and reliable. She makes everyday trips so safe and relaxed for us as parents, and when we're relaxed, our kids are so much more relaxed too. Our son has started including Whitney in his plans - I was worried the tethering would mean restriction, but the tethering actually brings freedom and independence for him and for our whole family. He is learning all sorts of cool new ways to self-manage and is planning even more adventures that involve his special dog.

 

There are challenges too. Whitney is such a gorgeous girl that everyone wants to be near her and pat her even with the jacket on ... so we’ve had to learn to say no and let her get on with the job. Dogs are a lot of work, sometimes waking up for a wee in the middle of the night, or up at dawn wanting to play. Whitney loves swimming in the sea for a free run, but does not love the shampoo afterwards! Our son will always have challenges unique to him, as will our whanau. Overall though, what a difference, it is hard to put into words how positive this has all been. Thank you to all the special dogs and special people who worked so hard to bring this beautiful Taonga into our lives. She’s made an enormous difference to the everyday, and opened up our hearts and minds to what else might be possible.

 
 

"I don’t know if people understand the difference an Assistance Dog can make, not just to the people themselves, but their families."

Helen suffers from multiple auto-immune disorders which affect her in a range of different ways, as well as a sleep disorder where she can often cause significant injury to herself.

"A friend watched a documentary about Assistance Dogs and at the time I’d just failed every treatment option for my sleeping disorder. I didn’t know what to do and I was injuring myself quite badly in my sleep. It was my friend who said why don’t you look into this, because potentially a dog could help you. Once I looked into it I discovered that a dog could help me with all my medical conditions, not just the sleep disorder."

Helen was experiencing multiple falls and had to walk with a stick, but now Bindi provides the support she needs. With the sleep disorder, Helen had given herself a head injury and was forever waking up with large bruises, but now Bindi simply lies on her legs so she doesn’t get out of bed. 

“One of the things that has happened since getting her is I randomly get this condition where I go blind for 15-20 minutes - that would have been absolutely terrifying without Bindi. When I was first matched with Bindi, the ADNZT instructor taught her some guiding, so if I give her the command, she’ll take me somewhere safe where I can wait it out. She makes me so much more confident to leave the house. I was struggling to go out a bit because I was afraid of falling and all the things that could happen. 

Bindi has also figured out on her own how to recognise when my blood pressure is dropping, so she’ll give me an alert when I’m likely to pass out. I fell over at home the other day and she wasn’t quite sure what to do, so she did all the tasks she knows how, and when I was still sitting there dizzy, she just put her paw in my hand for comfort.”

Bindi has become a close companion, especially during the Covid-19 lockdown when Helen spent 12 weeks at home alone due to being immune-compromised, during which time Bindi rescued Helen from a fall. 

Having an Assistance Dog gives Helen so much more independence and mental space to live a more normal life, as she writes children’s and young adult books, teaches creative writing and takes Bindi to storytime at the local children’s bookshop.

“I don’t know if people understand the difference an Assistance Dog can make, not just to the people themselves, but their families. It’s a huge relief for my family and friends to know that I’m safe, and I know that’s the same for the children with autism."

"Our beautiful boy Ranger holds a very special place in our family and everyone's hearts. He has changed our lives forever."

Digger and I farm a sheep and beef property in Otorohanga. We have three children: Josh, TJ and Kyle. Kyle is an autistic non-verbal lad. We had got to a stage with our family where it was impossible to take Kyle out in public easily without having to deal with meltdowns, bad behaviour, or just simply not getting out of the car at our desired destinations. Basic everyday tasks like going to the supermarket were totally impossible. The only exception of the rule for Kyle was at Sheep Shearing Competitions, his absolute happy place.

For 5 years we had used au pairs just to allow some slight normality for our other two older children Josh and TJ, until Josh went to boarding school. We had researched the idea of an Assistance Dog, but thought we could just battle along doing what were doing (or not doing). We relied heavily on Kyle's older sister TJ and his elderly grandmother to take care of him, allowing us to take part in some normal activities like following Josh’s school functions and sporting endeavors.

In July 2018 our life changed, ADNZT's Ranger came to join our family when Kyle was about to turn 15 years of age. Suddenly we were able to go out in public with some form of normality. Ranger was invaluable in calming Kyle in intense situations. Ranger worked out when Kyle is going to “lose the plot” and found a strategy to diffuse the situation – he runs around like an idiot to divert his attention with numerous toys in his mouth.

Our first big adventure was to fly to Wellington to watch the All Blacks play the Springboks. On this trip, we went to a café for lunch, Te Papa, a dinner out in a restaurant and of course the rugby Test. All normal things to most people, but for us and Kyle, something totally new. This was an amazing experience and it would not have been possible without Rangers' help. We have since had other holidays to Queenstown and Naseby.

Things have continued on a positive note. When Kyle is in a safe situation, he is able to take the lead and I can be hands-free. Slowly he is gaining some independence when out in public. Our beautiful boy Ranger holds a very special place in our family and everyone's hearts. He has changed our lives forever.

 
 

"When I put the blue Assistance Dogs jacket on Rufus, Natalie gets excited and asks if we’re “going on ‘ventures”. You might think that being tied to a dog would be frustrating for a child, but when Rufus was placed with us, Natalie quickly decided that he was her key to freedom and her partner in adventures; she has never resented the tether that connects them."

Natalie is 10 years old and has had epilepsy since the age of two. Her seizures are small but frequent, often several in a day, and they have delayed many aspects of her development, such as her speech, her fine motorskills, and her behaviour which has not matured over the years. She’s still very toddler-like in her impatience, frustrations, her impulsivity and her lack of awareness of danger or risk. She has a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, but we personally feel her autistic traits have been caused by the seizure damage rather than an inherited gene.

Rufus was trained to help us keep Natalie safe when we’re out together in public. Often she will run off if something catches her eye and she doesn’t notice dangers like traffic. She’s also a sensory seeker and compelled to touch, taste and sniff everything, so Rufus helps me to keep her distanced from enticing things on shop shelves. Natalie wears a belt and a strap that tethers her to Rufus’ back and if he feels tension, he will resist and hold her in place. If I need my hands free, I can put him into a ‘down’ position, where he is better able to anchor her and then I can unload my shopping trolley or pay a cashier without worrying about where she is running off to.

In the past 12 months we’ve visited places that we’d long given up going to, because of the safety risk when Natalie runs and won’t come back. Rufus and Natalie’s adventures have taken them to the zoo, where the baboons took a dislike to him and boomed out a warning..but Rufus didn’t even blink. They’ve been to the Auckland Museum, MOTAT, numerous morning teas and lunches in coffee shops, bushwalks, and even watched a community fireworks display. Rufus didn’t flinch there either. He is a stable, calm, confident and affectionate companion for Natalie and an extra pair of hands for my husband and I. He has opened up a new world for her and she knows it.

Things that used to be so hard, like watching her brothers play sport, are now simple with Rufus there to assist. No longer can she sprint across the footy pitch mid-game, or steal the boundary marker cones and run off with them. My anxiety levels have fallen and we all enjoy family outings now.

 

Rufus wasn’t trained to detect seizures because Natalie’s are small and she doesn’t fall unconscious, but on his own he has learned that she’s got something going on and needs TLC. Even though it’s Natalie’s brothers who throws the ball and play games with him when he’s off-duty, Natalie is the one he has connected with. If I ask him to go find hers he’ll race off down the hallway or across the yard to track her down. When we swim at the local creeks he swims too, off-duty with no jacket on, because the water is one place where Natalie doesn’t take off. She’s like a fish and would spend all day in the water if we let her.

Rufus was whining and whimpering and trying to swim closer to her, but a bit uncertain about swimming where the boys were landing with a massive splash. I could tell he just wanted to get to her so badly. He made such a fuss until she came out of the ruckus where he could reach her again.

 

When Rufus is off-duty around the house, he’s a loveable goof and the best family pet. When he’s working, he’s so dedicated and sensible. I don’t know how we managed to do anything before he came along last year.

 

When the blue jacket goes on, you see him puff up with pride and a happily wagging tail because he loves his work. That’s when Natalie gets excited and runs to get her special belt and tether, and if she had a tail, I think she’d wag it too.