William and Toby are the very bests of friends. Despite William only being two years old and Toby still being a young puppy, the beautiful bond they have clear to see. As well as bringing William friendship Toby is learning to do lots of important tasks to help make Williams life easier and safer.
William was born with a rare, progressive kidney disease which means he has lots of hospital intervention on a regular basis. His condition can cause periods of severe illness which require quick intervention from his family and medical team. William also has other conditions including Autism which means that William has sensory processing difficulties and struggles with communication.
This is where Toby, the wonder collie comes in! We are training Toby to do lots of tasks to help William. To help William with his emotional regulation, Toby is learning to provide deep pressure therapy when William is distressed to help him calm down. We are also training Toby to alert to acute kidney events to ensure that William is able to access the treatment he needs as quickly as possible which we hope will help reduce the severity and duration of poorly episodes. To enable William to communicate with Toby we are teaching Toby to respond to communication cards (PECS symbols).
As William gets older, we will continue to tailor the tasks that Toby is trained to do based on Williams needs at the time. One task we aim to start training soon is dual handling to encourage William to walk beside Toby, keeping him safe by the road and also offering counterbalancing when William in unsteady on his feet (if Toby reaches the suitable weight & hip score when he’s older to make this safe).
"getting Toby and looking into getting an assistance dog was a 15 month process of research. It’s definitely not for the faint hearted in terms of starting with a puppy alongside such a young child, especially if you choose a working dog breed, that said its been the most amazing and rewarding experience for us.” Says Williams Mum “Its an experience we couldn't have done without the massive help and support of Pawsitive Squad CIC and for that we are extremely grateful both for the support of the owner, Heather and from the other families. We are 6 months into our journey and we still have a way to go but we are already seeing the benefits and the hard work paying off.”
William is a young child to have an assistance dog in training but he is not the first very young child we have trained a dog to assist. Where young children have conditions, which are long term and which require significant management, having an assistance dog start training with them while they are young can be highly beneficial for managing the child’s health and safety. As William is a young person with a life threatening/life limiting disability which requires significant medical input, William and Toby access Pawsitive Squad through the special circumstance program which is open to new customers even when our books are otherwise full.