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10:10 PM   May 04, 2015
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Pets & People--Charities Work Together

Samuel and Jade together with their supporters
Samuel and Jad together with theirsupporters.
The many and diverse benefits of keeping a pet have become increasingly clear over recent years, thanks to the range of different scientific studies carried out in this field. This has been recognized in the charity sphere, too, and the results really can be life-changing for people who have been helped.

Canine Partners is a forward-thinking charity that assists those with disabilities to enjoy greater independence and quality of life through the provision of specially trained dogs, whose well-being is also a key consideration.

Jade, a black Labrador retriever, was taken on by Canine Partners in February 2008 and, thanks to a grant of $16,000 from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, she is now uniquely trained to support Samuel, a young man afflicted with severe autism.

When Samuel was younger, he spent a lot of time with the family Labrador, Lucy, and after the routine of his everyday life was interrupted by a change of school, Samuel’s mother, Bobbie noticed that it was Lucy who helped Samuel to cope. It was this that prompted Bobbie to start researching assistance dogs and led her to contact Canine Partners.

Although Samuel’s case lay outside the charity’s normal sphere of work, they agreed to assist as a one-off case, due to the fact that Samuel’s medical references stressed the extent to which Samuel was physically disabled by his autism.

The Kennel Club Charitable Trust regularly sponsors dogs through training at Canine Partners, but this is the first time a dog has been trained to assist someone with autism.

Andy Cook, CEO at Canine Partners, and Becca Meaton, manager of advanced training, undertook extensive research before embarking on the project, and are grateful to other assistance dog charities for their help. They also visited Samuel and his family on many occasions.

A Different Perspective

Samuel’s world is very constrained by his inability to cope outside the home. He cannot filter out noises around him and so when he leaves home, his world turns into chaos. On top of this, autism is not visible and so people often do not understand why Samuel may act in a certain way, undermining his fragile confidence.

When Jade is with him, however, things start to get easier. Jade gives Samuel both a focus to concentrate on and she also acts as an outward sign to others that Samuel has a disability. People respond to this by giving him space and are a little more understanding if his response to a situation may seem a little different from usual.

It is no exaggeration to say Jade has changed Samuel’s life.

"Jade has given Samuel the confidence to go out-- he has now been to the bank about six times and he takes her to the vets as well,” said Jade’s mother Bobbie. After 20 years of not being able to do things like this, it is a huge step forward.

 "Jade also helps Samuel’s relationship with other people, as not only is she an outward sign that he has a disability but she is also a great icebreaker,” she continued. "Every day Samuel is out in the fresh air walking with Jade and he has never been happier. Jade slowly but surely is opening the door to the world for Samuel”.

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