15 Jun 2014

One In Five for 15 June 2014 - assistance dogs

From One In Five, 5:10 pm on 15 June 2014

Carol trying to pull Cody along
Carol trying to encourage Cody.

Mia’s life has been transformed by the newest member of her family. The nine-year-old is on the autism spectrum and last September Awhina came to live with her. Awhina is a beautiful black Labrador who loves to play and cuddle but she also has another very important role. She is a trained assistance dog and accompanies Mia to the shopping centre, on school trips, to the zoo and movies, camping and even paddle boarding. She helps keep Mia safe and is helping her develop her social skills. Mia’s parents say Awhina has strengthened their family and, where once one parent would stay home with their daughter, the entire family is now participating in the community together. 

There are 17 assistance dogs working with people with disabilities in New Zealand – and a long list of people who would like one. Assistance Dogs New Zealand breeds the labradors and retriever crosses that are destined to become assistance dogs. After basic training, the dogs are trained specifically to assist with the needs of the person they will work beside.