Plea to help assistance dogs after Covid-19 stifles annual appeal

Belinda James’ life was changed when her son’s assistance dog Rhys walked into their lives, and she wants the public’s help to make sure other families get the same experience.

Her son Corlan was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and sensory processing disorder when he was two years old.

They immediately began the process to get onto the assistance dog waitlist.

“Once we got accepted, and put on their waitlist, it was five years.”

“We were told it was going to be seven."

Belinda says for a while, she didn’t think Rhys was going to arrive.

“We didn’t talk about it too much with Corlan, because it was too much of a period where he wouldn’t have Rhys, so he wouldn’t understand.

Assistance Dogs Trust general manager Mimi Hooper says that’s because trainers are already flat tack.

“If we could get the finance to get another instructor, and another dog trainer, then obviously we could increase from eight to 10 dogs a year.”

She says eventually, they aim to get 20 to 25 dogs a year out to families.

Rhys, an assistance dog, now helps Corlan with his anxiety.

For that, the trust relies ”very, very heavily” on its annual fundraising appeal to the public.

But Covid-19 restrictions mean the appeal’s had to move of the streets and online, which has had serious consequences.

“At the moment, we’re $50,000 down from this time last year.”

Mimi says it’s obvious how much these dogs can change a person’s life.

“When I arrive to do an interview at someone’s house, the common thing that we see is exhaustion, just with the parents, they’re exhausted.”

When Rhys finally arrived, the change in the household was “pretty quick.”

“I was worried about, will he like us? Will he be happy?

“But I think Rhys’ training and his nature… I don’t know what I was worried about, actually. It went really well.”

To donate to the trust, click here. 


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