It was great to welcome our speaker Rosie Banning and volunteer Helen from Dogs for Good to our Zoom meeting on Wednesday. It was both an enlightening and fun morning. And it featured 10 ten-day-old puppies who brought it all to life!
How did it Start?
Rosie outlined the history of how Dogs for the Disabled first started. Founded in 1986 by Frances Hay (pictured below) who had had part of her leg amputated she began to realise how her Belgian Shepherd dog Kim was helping her in her daily life. It was enough for her to get, first interest and then commitment from friends and influencers. And before long they started to train suitable dogs. These were the dogs who could ‘help her dream to help 100s and 100s’ of disabled people. Sadly she died two years later when she was just forty-one without seeing what her work has now achieved. However, her brother Christopher is an active member of the board and the organisation remains a great legacy to her dedication.
Changing the name
In 2015 the name was changed to Dogs for Good to reflect its wider reach. The head office is in Banbury with three regional offices in Bristol covering the South and Wallington covering the North. It’s funded by donations and contributions from dog owners. The process always matches the person and dog and depends on the needs and personality of both the human and the dog.
Different dogs for different people
There are assistance dogs who provide physical help in the home. Here they are able to do many useful activities around the home such as fetching post or other items, emptying the washing machine, opening doors and some are being trained to make the bed!
There are community dogs who work with people with disabilities who cannot manage or have a dog of their own. These dogs go into hospitals, schools, and respite centres and work on a one to one basis with the client to build their confidence in coping better for themselves.
Interestingly many dogs are proving to have a beneficial impact on people with autism. The organisation gets over 2,500 enquiries for autism dogs for children, However, dealing with so many manifestations of autism makes training the dogs difficult to match to the individual need. They look to placing just five dogs a year.
The breeding programme
Rosie then introduced us to Helen who is a volunteer and whose pet a beautiful labrador Edna had a litter of ten puppies all destined to become assistance dogs. Helen starts by handling the puppies regularly to ensure they become confident and independent as soon as possible. The trainers go on to work with the dogs from eight weeks old up to sixteen months. And they cover house training, walking on a lead, checking out difficult situations as well as socialising, and learning to respond to commands.
The organisation aims to place 50 dogs into families where there is someone with a disability every year This puts pressure on fundraising as the cost of a fully trained and settled in a dog is approximately £13,500.
Rosie explained how they also run training for pet dogs and have been doing so for ten years. The training covers everything from choosing the right breed for your family and building a lifelong relationship. Real ‘hands-on’ learning. However, because of the continuing COVID restrictions, virtual workshops are being planned and will start at the end of this month.
There was a good turnout for the talk and plenty of questions too. Thank you so much, Rosie, Helen, and of course Edna for giving us a lovely start to our day.
Want to know how you could help either through fundraising or sharing your time and skills? Check out the advice here