Border Terrier Abbi was never meant to be an assistance dog and has no formal training. Two-year-old Abbi belongs to Lucy Eccles, a six-year-old girl with Coffin-Siris Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes developmental delays and health problems. Lucy has difficulties with speech and language and demonstrates autistic behaviours.
Lucy has spent most of her life in and out of hospital having very invasive investigations and therapy. She attends the Central Remedial Clinic in Clontarf, Dublin and has at least two appointments per week and at the moment she is waiting on surgery in Temple Street Hospital.
Lucy’s mother Noeleen had initially intended on using Abbi as a show dog but unfortunately she did not make the grade. Noeleen however did notice that Abbi had some ability around Lucy and Abbi has now become a very important member or the Eccles family.
Abbi has brought some normality to Lucy’s life and by communicating with Abbi, Lucy is kept calm and relaxed. Lucy wears orthotics to help her walk. “The more mobile we keep Lucy, the better. Before Abbi came along, she would walk around and not notice her environment. Abbi helps her to avoid obstacles, encourages her to walk a little further, and Lucy is less prone to meltdowns. Life is much easier.”
As Abbi has no formal training they are not allowed to bring her into cafes or shops which is a pity. Noeleen is considering doing therapy dog work with Abby so that she can help other children.
Abbi also helps Lucy to communicate with other children. “Lucy doesn’t have any friends, and can find it hard when she wants to run after children in the playground. But Abbi is Lucy’s friend, and when people come over to look at her, Lucy feels more involved. Abbi has changed Lucy’s life.”
Abbi is nominated in the Irish Kennel Club Golden Paw Hero Dog Awards, which aim to find Ireland’s most courageous and life-changing dogs. The awards take place on Wednesday, 21 May. Check out http://www.ikc.ie/goldenpaw.