Dogs Days are coming for Banbury charity

Banbury's Dogs for Good is announcing both a new community project and calling upon residents to help them extend their services to more areas and reach twice as many people in rural communities.
Assistance dog Harry with JoelAssistance dog Harry with Joel
Assistance dog Harry with Joel

The charity, whose headquarters are on Blacklocks Hill, trains and provide assistance dogs to support children and adults with a wide range of disabilities, including autism. They have now launched an ambitious plan to double their provision.

The new campaign called “Imagine If” is being led with Joel and Harry’s inspirational story.

Brain damaged at birth, Joel, now 21, from Buckinghamshire, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy quadriplegia, which means he has difficulty controlling movement in his arms and legs, his speech is slurred and he also has associated dyspraxia.

Joel was 19 when he got his assistance dog, Harry, and they have been inseparable ever since.

His dad Jon, said: “They’re such a strong team – it goes beyond being just friends.

“It was clear right from the very first moment they met each other at Dogs for Good. Harry definitely chose Joel and he made the right choice. Their personalities are very similar – determined, single-minded, mischievous and a lot of fun.”

Harry assists Joel in many ways such as retrieving dropped items, helping him on and off with his clothes, and pulling the duvet off in the mornings when he needs to get up.

He also helps Joel in social settings by pushing the button for the automatic doors and accompanies him to Westminster University, where Joel is doing a course in Fine Art. Harry also escorts Joel when he meets up with friends in cafes and pubs.

Currently Dogs for Good has 350 one-on-one working partnerships in communities across the UK.

They also have a team of community dogs and specialist handlers that help people to improve their independence, wellbeing and skills who currently support 3,000 people.

The charity also offers support and training to families of children with autism through dog training and on-going support so that more people are able to benefit from the power of well-trained dogs.

This service supports over 1,000 families and runs workshops all over the UK.

These teams work in colleges and schools with learning difficulties, with people with dementia, in hospitals providing therapeutic care and more.

The community teams also visit colleges and schools specialising in students with learning difficulties, hospitals to provide therapeutic care and care homes to work with people with dementia.

Part of the work undertaken with people with dementia is via a scheme called ‘Dog Days’ which the charity will be launching at an event at the Lake House Care Home and Day Centre, in Adderbury, next January.

Julia Winters, Dogs for Good dementia community dog handler, said: “Having the dogs there can attract people that might not usually join a dementia specific group and are a great way to engage people within their community.

"It's open to people with all stages of dementia plus their families and carers. They can come along and have tea, coffee and a cake.

“One of the people that recently attended one of our Dog Days said ‘I can’t remember the last time my husband smiled so much'.”

Julia takes her dog Georgie to these monthly dog-themed community therapy events which were first established in the Forest of Dean and Hertfordshire.

The attendees enjoy gentle interaction with volunteers and their trained pet dogs, who have undergone an eight week training program to ensure both the dog and the owner are suitable for such public events.

One Banbury volunteer is Michala Timms and her six year old Cavachon, Charlie. Michala said: "A friend told me about it. and I just thought what a really lovely thing to be able to do to take Charlie to visit people with dementia, so they can get to know him, he can get to know them and get lots of fuss, which he absolutely loves.

"We passed the bronze kennel club training last night. We do have to do a little bit extra training at home. He's not an all singing and dancing dog really but he has to sit when I ask him to and wait. So we had to practice a few things.

Michala adds: "We had to practice walking past other dogs and people to make sure he is controlled with no barking or jumping up. We had to do sit and wait to make sure he would stay where he was meant to be and you have to be able to take things from him without him grumbling."

Participants take part in dog themed activities such as dog bingo and the community event has had positive feedback from other similar events across the UK.

Julia added: "It's a really relaxed event, it's very person centred and we do dog related activities as well."

For more information on volunteering or the Dog Days event visit www.dogsforgood.org/joelandharry.

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