A 13-year-old boy and his assistance dog who stole the country’s heart returned to Banbury where his journey began to meet the dog his fundraising efforts will train.
Joel Sayer, 13, suffers from autism and had difficulties relating to the outside world until Caddie, a Labrador golden retriever cross, entered his life four years ago.
Caddie, now six-years-old, is an assistance dog who was trained at the Banbury-based charity Dogs for Good.
Caddie acts as Joel’s 24-hour-a-day protector, calming him in stressful situations and seeing danger where Joel’s condition blinds him from it, such as running into traffic when something across the road has caught his eye.
So dramatic was the effect that Caddie had on Joel’s life he immediately set out to raise the £5,000 required to train an autism assistance dog so that another child could regain control over their own life.
Joel said of Caddie: “He’s kept me living. My little guardian angel here.
“He has kept me safe for the last four years. Before I had him I found it hard to live.”
In order to raise the funds Joel entered Caddie into the Crufts Friends for Life Competition earlier this year.
The pair reached the final and were awarded prize money of £1,500 for doing so. They were pipped at the post for the top spot which would have brought a £5,000 prize fund which Joel planned on donating to Dogs for Good.
Unperturbed Joel set about raising the £3,500 shortfall to enable the charity to train another Caddie, eventually surpassing that amount by £600.
Joel, Caddie and Joel’s mother Janet travelled from their Newquay home in April of this year to present the charity on Blacklocks Hill with a cheque for £5,600.
Joel and Caddie received national media coverage and the pair appeared live on BBC Breakfast and ITV’s This Morning.
Joel’s story touched many people and organisations including an anonymous donor, who added £20K to the fund, and the Midland Counties Canine Association, who matched Joel’s tally, donating £6,000 to sponsor a puppy in Joel’s honour and for him to name the puppy.
On August 17, Joel got to meet his sponsored puppy, an eight week old yellow Labrador who he has named Alvin.
Joel, Janet and Caddie repeated the 460-mile round trip from their Devon home to the Banbury Centre to meet the little pup.
Janet said: “Joel was so excited to name a puppy and he took the job very seriously and picked out the name Alvin.
“It’s the first time Joel has ever met such a tiny puppy and Joel’s smile hasn’t faded.
“We are really proud of Alvin with his adorable eyes, wagging tail, mischievous nature and cute red collar and lead. I know everyone will fall in love with him as Joel has.”
Caddie was also very interested in the new little recruit, Janet said: “Caddie looks like a proud elder meeting Alvin.”
Joel said: “It was very nice meeting Alvin and I really hope he will help some one like me in the future”.
Janet adds: “I’m so proud of Joel and his accomplishments due to his ‘Guardian Angel’, and we wish Alvin the best of luck with the next two years of learning.
“We hope he is to his partner as helpful and important as Caddie is to Joel and opens up the world to another person. Good luck Alvin.”