Not every dog that joins the Guide Dog WA program is destined to become a Guide Dog. Golden Labrador, Margie was progressing well with her training until, at 18 months of age, she was prematurely withdrawn from the program due to mild arthritis.
Although Margie was not suitable for the responsibilities of guiding, Vets were happy that life as a Companion Dog was an alternative career option for the sweet-natured girl.
Margie was matched with 11 year-old Beth and her family. Beth has endured more pain and trauma in her short life, which is more than most of us will know in our lifetime.
Beth was born with Down syndrome and a heart defect and lives with cerebral palsy and hearing loss. At just 12 weeks of age, Beth needed open heart surgery to repair the defect.
At four years old, Beth was diagnosed with spinal cord compression, which meant if Beth fell over, her spinal cord could be severed and she could die. Emergency surgery was the only option.
After six hours of surgery and a full head, neck and spine brace, the results were devastating. The surgery had failed. She underwent a second and then a third surgery.
Beth’s mum, Jane estimates she has gone through 10 major surgeries and 30 general anaesthetics.
Beth’s multiple disabilities means her behaviour can be a challenge.
“Beth doesn’t adjust very well to change. New environments, new places or new things, they tend to trigger her. She’ll have tantrums and breakdowns, where she’ll yell and scream and kick and just be inconsolable, really.”
Margie joined Beth’s family in mid-2018 and since then, their world has been transformed. Jane was reluctant to get too excited in case Margie was not the right fit for Beth or the family. She needn’t have worried.
Margie had a remarkable effect on Beth and has bought a sense of calm to the whole household. Margie has taught Beth how to share.
“One of the greatest gifts that Margie has given our beautiful daughter is that she is helping to socialise Beth. Because of Margie, people are drawn to Beth, whereas before, they were often wary because of her challenging behaviours. These days, when Beth is out with Margie, it’s like they are carrying a banner screaming: ‘come-talk-to-us’. And people do!”
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