The biggest thrill for the Empower Assistance Dogs team is the day that one of our dogs goes home for the very first time with their new companion. Meet just some of our dogs and their best friends right here.
Ivy & Tom
Tom was partnered with Ivy in February, 2017. Ivy is Tom's assistance dog but with Tom also having vision disabilities it lead us down the path to investigate the possibility of bringing on board a Guide Dog trainer to ensure we could best service our clients with multiple disabilities. Due to Tom's vision impairment we also needed to take his cane and any other equipment or aids into account when training his dog but we have concentrated on the assistance task work as a priority for Tom's dog. Ivy has already proven herself by indicating when Tom had a brain shunt blockage. She wouldn't leave Tom's side and demonstrated a clear behaviour change which alerts Tom's mother to call an ambulance and get Tom to the hospital for emergency surgery. Ivy helps Tom on a daily basis picking up dropped or wanted items, she has helped Tom to achieve better sleeping habits and get's help when needed. This is a short paragraph from Tom's Mum about the Empower Assistance Dogs program and what it means to her family:
"Tom is an only child and is turning 13 years old. He is quite small as he was born very premmie, has had many operations and has a number of disabilities to cope with. A dog for Tom has so many benefits. Not only a companion but a friend he can talk to, have comfort whenever he needs it, a buddy to make him feel calm, safe and secure, particularly through hard or scary times. Tom loves that he can get his room tidied up with help from a dog without having to do too much work lol… As well as these benefits, I see a young boy going through puberty, a new high school and an ability to make friends more easily in social environments, when he has a cool dog with him. I think the bond they develop will assist with emotions, autism and other medical issues. I see laughter and fun and a true blessing and a great benefit that Tom will also learn is about responsibility."
Lou & Jacob
Tracey and Craig selected Lou as a pup from the Animal Welfare League Qld after he made it through their selection process as a candidate for their assistance dog program.
Jacob has autism and Lou has been a part of Jacob's life now for almost 7 years; and during this time they have made a wonderful team. e.g. Jacob doesn't like being in confined spaces but with Lou's help he will ride in a lift.
Lou also became a passenger on long distance flights, sitting at Jacob's feet, so Jacob had him to look after, rather than worry about the plane flight. Whenever Jacob gets really upset, Lou runs to him and stays with him until the moment has passed. Even though Lou wasn't trained in this role, he instinctively knows what to do.
Lou also helps out by being with Jacob and keeping him calm during dental and doctor appointments as well as having blood tests.
Ever since Lou arrived at our place, Lou has always gone to Jacob's bedroom at night and stays with him until he goes to sleep. Often they cuddle up together.
Bouncer & Lewis
Bouncer was a dog that was donated to us by Logan City Council Animal Management when she arrived at the Council Pound. She wasn't in fantastic condition so we cleaned her up, put some weight on her and then started her rehabilitation and training until finally we could transition her across to working with Lewis.
Bouncer is a wonderful companion for Lewis, assisting socially, emotionally and physically. She helps wake him up in the morning by tugging his Doona or getting onto his bed so he can cuddle her and get the tactile sensory feedback he needs (she knows she cannot jump on the bed without command). She sits beside him and reduces his anxiety whilst eating breakfast. She helps him pack his school bag by bringing items from the floor to him. She picks up dropped items for him that he otherwise could not get. She nudges doors open for him. She fetches her food bowl so Lewis can be the one to feed her.
On a social level, Bouncer facilitates many conversations and interactions. Lewis enjoys talking about her which promotes positive social skills. His anxiety is reduced in social situations as he can focus on Bouncer. Bouncer strengthens Lewis and Brooke's relationship by encouraging team work as they have a common bond.
On an emotional level, Bouncer is always there for him, to listen to him, he reads stories to her, teaches her lessons from school ( this week it was Science lol). She provides the sensory feedback he needs for sensory regulation. He will lay and cuddle with her for ages! If he gets upset he cuddles her and feels better quickly.
Two more things..
1.Bouncer takes Lewis clothes to the wash basket when he commands her to...which is great as if not he would leave it on the floor!
2. She takes items between us which reduces his crawling/bouncing on the floor and saves me having to stop what I am doing to walk the length of the house!
Jerry, Eddie & Luke
Luke has a spina bifida which has him in a wheelchair. Luke got his first assistance dog (Jerry) when he was attending school and everyday Luke and Jerry went to school together. Having Jerry go to school with Luke was a relief for the family as they did not have to worry about him leaning over and falling out his chair.
Jerry would retrieve things like hat pencil case to a book even opening and shutting a door to picking money up off the floor. But most of all the best thing about having an assistance dog is the social aspects of it.
People talk to Luke about the assistance dog and not about what is wrong with him.
Jerry has since retired and Luke now works with Eddie which is a new chapter but is still a big part of Luke being out and about in the community.
When our dogs retire, they stay with the family as they have definitely earned the right to be able to take it easy and not to get displaced from their family just because they don't work anymore.
Colin & Jazmin
Jazmin received her assistance dog Colin in October 2013. Jaz was 12 years old at the time and had been wanting an assistance dog for many years.
A word from Jaz….
I never dreamed all those years ago when I first got Colin, that I would ever have the independence that I have today. My life is a lot different to what I thought it could be…Colin and I have an unbreakable bond.
Being able to go out in public alone with Colin creates a feeling of safety for me. Colin helps me emotionally as well as physically. Whenever my heart rate speeds up, Colin rests his head on my legs to comfort me which makes me relax.
His main role is to help me physically by helping me balance whilst walking, picking up items or holding something I may need or when my hands are full, and helping me off the floor if I fall over. He’s reliable, he has a unique personality and he does things that he wasn’t initially trained to do because he can. He always tries hard to be there for me and he will pretty much give anything a go if it means it’ll help me.
Where ever we go he looks at me with admiration. He’s very expressive and we read each other really well. He is the missing part of my soul.