A teenager who won over the hearts and minds of the nation has raised thousands of pounds for Banbury charity Dogs for Good.
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 and was trained at the Banbury based charity Dogs for Good.
The transformation in Joel was almost immediate as his mother, Janet, explains: “Joel never smiled before he got Caddie. We tried to get him on a bike so got him a new bike. My husband brought it home and put it in the conservatory and Joel walked out and his smile was just a dimple, that was the only reaction we got from the bike.
“Within the first ten days of getting Caddie, maybe not even that, we started getting smiles.”
Caddie acts as a 24-hour-a-day protector, calming Joel in stressful situations and seeing danger where Joel’s condition blinds him from it.
Joel decided he wanted to say thank you to Caddie and try to raise the £5,000 it costs to rear and train an assistance dog so entered Caddie into this years Crufts Friends for Life Competition.
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. The story also brought forth an anonymous donor who added £20K to the fund and the Midland Counties Canine Association matched Joel’s tally. Joel, his mother and the ever present Caddie visited the charity to hand over the cheque on April 5.
Joel said: “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.”
The charity requires £3m per year to run its operations.
Peter Gorbing, CEO of the charity, said: “We’re going to use it to train some more assistance dogs like we’ve done for Joel and Caddie. It just allows us to keep training dogs and giving support to more people.”