Pawsitive Squad CIC was founded in July, 2018 by Heather Pyne, a Nottingham based student and dog trainer to provide dog support services to young people with disabilities who’s needs were not being met by other organisations.
This is an area that Heather has lots of experience with. In 2016, Heather had two children – Ben and Izzy. Both children had a rocky start in life and each has faced their own challenges since. Her daughter Izzy has a complex neurodisability, epilepsy and lots of other conditions which impact on Izzy’s physical and cognitive abilities as well as cause medical events which can be life threatening. As Heather was already working as a dog trainer and had her own assistance dog, which had been trained with the support of another charity, Heather began to explore how her own assistance dog could be trained to support Izzy as well. Pepsi at this point was already showing a natural ability to alert to Izzy’s medical events however, due to Izzy’s age and complexity of needs, no where was offering support.
In her hunt for support for Izzy, Heather found there were lots of families just like hers, with children with profound and complex disabilities who would hugely benefit from an assistance dog but that there were just no organisations which could support their needs.
“I understand why this is the case, training a dog to support a child with very complex needs requires lots of knowledge of disability, involves additional risks and means that training each dog takes significantly more time for the trainer as the training has to be so tailored. It’s not just about teaching the dogs tasks; you have to consider how the young person can communicate with the dog – maybe we need to add in switch training or PECS training and work alongside the child’s care team. These things take a different perspective, skill set and experience than a general dog trainer or even a general assistance dog trainer needs.”
Heather started Pawsitive Squad to fill this gap and meet the needs of young people who do not meet the program eligibility for other organisations and to give young people who cannot own a dog the opportunity to benefit from interaction with a dog through canine assisted activities.