Case study: Oliver and Lucy
Oliver’s Mum Sarah explains her son's disabilities: "Our six-year-old son, Oliver, has complex disabilities including a visual impairment and mobility problems. It is a huge challenge for him to walk. We applied to Guide Dogs over the summer of 2013 for their buddy dog scheme and amazingly Oliver was awarded a buddy dog called Lucy in September 2013. She has had the most remarkable effect on him and has totally changed our lives.
“Oliver had a brain injury shortly after birth which left him with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism and a visual impairment. He had a difficult and traumatic start to life.
“Whilst he is a very happy, lovely little boy (of whom we are so, so proud) he struggles with communicating his needs and his emotions and some of his behaviour can be challenging to manage. Until Lucy arrived, he wasn't able to tell anyone that he loved them. On the day that Lucy came to live with us, he hugged her and said 'I love you Lucy, you are my sweetheart'. Since then, he's gone from strength to strength with his communication and is now so much more expressive. His verbal skills are very good, but prior to Lucy's arrival he wasn't able to say certain things. He has told us, his parents, that he loves us and he can now say hello, goodbye, please and thank you.
“Lucy helps to calm Oliver down and provide him with enormous support. They have a remarkable bond. Events, like birthdays and Christmas parties, that Oliver wouldn't have coped with previously are now accessible to Oliver with Lucy at his side. She gives him a confidence that we haven't seen before, and has a wonderfully calming effect on him.
“Oliver isn't aware of when he is hungry or thirsty or tired. We think this is part of his autism. And yet, he is aware of Lucy's needs. This is amazing. He helps to feed her, groom her, take her to the vets, walk her and is fascinated that she can lick her own bottom (well, he is six years old!)
“We feel so privileged to witness this remarkable friendship between our little boy and his dog, and to see his personality unfold before our eyes.”