For Simone and her son Eli, life has become happier and less anxious with Assistance Dog Taffy at their side.
11-year-old Eli was born with Cerebral Palsy, limiting his mobility and requiring more supervision from his family than most. When out in his wheelchair, Eli would often get grumpy and bored waiting for his mum. He didn’t understand what people were saying and became isolated from social interactions, relying heavily on his iPad for companionship. At home, Eli required constant supervision. He likes to play on the floor and puts everything in his mouth – Simone couldn’t leave him for more than a few minutes without worrying for his safety.
Having only been aware of Guide Dogs as working dogs back in Switzerland, her home country, Simone was delighted to learn of the incredible impact Assistance Dogs can have on children and adults with a wide range of disabilities. Having grown up with dogs, applying for an Assistance Dog for Eli was a no-brainer. When Taffy arrived – Eli’s face lit up! He was used to having a family dog around, but this was his dog; a companion for him to touch and cuddle! Eli and Taffy bonded quickly and Simone could see her son was happier already with his new friend at his side.
Taffy became a welcome distraction. When he was out with his mum, he could turn to Taffy when he got bored to cuddle and interact with. Over time, the pair became more and more able to entertain themselves, giving Simone some much-needed freedom, as well as a free pair of hands. At home, Taffy became a second pair of eyes for Simone, allowing her to get on with tasks around the house while Eli played happily on the floor with his buddy, ready to alert Simone if Eli coughed or became agitated.
When taking part in D-Sports (sports for disabilities) – Taffy sat by Eli’s Wheelchair cheering him on as he took part in ice-skating, rock-climbing and swimming, and trotted happily alongside when horse-riding with Simone at their local stables. Taffy provides safety, independence, and reassurance for the whole family, and an opportunity to live a more “normal” life with some ease.
When out in new environments – Eli could often become stiff and anxious in his chair, unable to fully comprehend how he was meant to deal with new places. Now Taffy is able to help him become more relaxed and ease into new situations. Simone can say “Look, Taffy is going into an elevator for the first time, shall we join him?” Or “Taffy is going to go in first, then you can follow” – suddenly Eli was able to better understand what was going on and became excited for new things, rather than uneasy. Nowadays people approach the pair regularly and eagerly to say hi – although Simone still has to supervise and help educate the public on how to approach a working dog, and remind them to talk to her son before going straight to Taffy. More interactions like this help our communities better understand the different roles service dogs can play, as well as provide opportunities to engage with disabled people where they couldn’t before.
In the 5 years Eli and Taffy have been together, Eli has become a much happier child with better access to the world around him. Simone has been given more freedom and reassurance of her son’s safety as he grows and is introduced to more and more new environments. He is a brighter and happier boy with more confidence to explore his community. This year the pair have started getting the taxi to school together – a first for them both. Seeing Taffy try something new helps Eli understand that it’s not scary and he can try it too. This will be important as the pair gets ready for college next year and embarks on a brand-new adventure together.
Each year, the Assistance Dogs team visit Eli and Taffy to check in on their progress and provide top-up training and support for the growing pair. This is a great touchpoint for both Simone and our organisation to ensure they continue to work well together and the family continue to gain the benefits of an internationally accredited Assistance Dog. Taffy is now 7-years-old and is starting to slow a little. When it comes to retirement, he will be ready for a well-earned break, playing on the beach and napping in the sun. The family will then be matched with another dog who will provide the same incredible opportunities Taffy has given them.
By making a donation today, you are helping to train more dogs like Taffy who will join families throughout Aotearoa living with disabilities. Without your support, we simply wouldn’t be able to provide this life-changing service. “Everyone should have an Assistance Dog” says Simone: a goal we strive for every day as we work towards doubling our output of dogs to better meet the needs of the disabled community. Thank you for donating to ADNZT and choosing to make a difference.