For a family with Autism, an assistance dog makes the world of difference.
Lovable Lab Jasper joined the Clinton family in Manorcunningham in 2016, and he has been a vital part of their daily lives ever since.
Parents Clara and Seamus couldn’t believe the change Jasper made from the day he met their children. He formed a close bond with Noah (aged 12), Amelia (10) and Olivia (6), who all have autism, and is now a pillar of support for them at every occasion.
As Irish Guide Dog Day takes place this week, Clara took the opportunity to celebrate the life-changing benefits of assistance and guide dogs.
“I brought Jasper home to Donegal on the 13th of May 2016 and he changed our lives immediately.
“He has been a part of every occasion, every outing, picnic, trip to the beach, first day of school, birthdays, Christmas, Halloween etc and he has helped make all those times so much happier and relaxing,” Clara told Donegal Daily.
“The main purpose of an assistance dog is to keep the child safe when out in public. Children with autism can be prone to bolting or running away when out and about but with the dog they are attached around the waist to the dog’s harness and once the child tries to run the dog is trained to stand its ground and keep the child there.
“This has been invaluable to our family. It makes family days out possible that weren’t before and gives us such peace of mind.”
Jasper supports all three children, but he has had the most remarkable impact on Olivia.
Clara said: “When Jasper arrived she was 2 years old and had already been diagnosed with autism, she didn’t speak and was quite subdued. She was terrified of dogs so I was really worried how it would work bringing a dog into the house but her reaction that day was amazing.
“She immediately lit up with excitement and she spoke! She repeated ‘it’s a doggy it’s a doggy’ over and over! The reaction was amazing and the change in her from then on was remarkable. Anyone that knew her before couldn’t believe the change.”
Guide Dogs and Assistance Dogs start their lives with two years of intensive training with a puppy walker and Irish Guide Dogs in Cork. The whole process costs over €50,000 from start to finish per dog.
The Clintons were on a waiting list for a dog for two years and ten months before being matched with Jasper. He continues to be a ‘hero’ for the children every day, whether he’s working or simply being a family dog.
“Jasper wears a coat while working which says ‘do not pet’, some people take offence when they see that but it is for the safety of the child he is working with, if the dog gets distracted by letting or any other attention then he won’t be focusing on the child. Once he is at home or not working, his coat is off and he is a completely normal and very happy dog,” Clara said.
Irish Guide Dogs day, which took place on Friday, calls on the public to help the charity change lives by supporting their work. With fundraising halted for March, April and May and into the summer, the charity is looking at in excess of a seven figure sum reduction in fundraising income this year. They currently have 35 Guide Dog Clients awaiting services and the demand for Assistance Dog Programme is exceptionally high.
“The work that Irish guide dogs do is just amazing,” Clara said.
“We couldn’t imagine our lives without Jasper.”
There are 7 easy ways to donate to Irish Guide Dogs for Guide Dog Day. If you would like to find out more, please visit: https://guidedogs.ie/guide-dog-day-2020/support-7-ways-to-donate/
For more information on local guide dogs and fundraising, visit: Donegal Branch of Irish Guide Dogs