Recently retired Guide Dog Zandie has already changed one life, and is now providing a life-changing friendship to a beautiful little boy.
Zandie was placed with six-year-old Xavier as a Companion Dog by Guide Dogs WA through the Buddy Dogs for Kids program, and is just one alternative pathway for retired Guide Dogs and those not suitable to be a working Guide Dog.
Born completely blind, Xavier also has autism and struggled to communicate with his family.
“Rather than answering questions, he would repeat them,” said Tracey, Xavier’s mum.
Because of his autism and blindness, simple questions like “are you hungry?” or “would you like a drink of water?” were made even harder.
“Watching Xavier struggle was challenging, and seeing him frustrated and having tantrums was heartbreaking.”
Companion Dogs act as a soothing presence to a child or adult living with a range or disabilities by providing companionship, friendship, and promoting fun and a sense of inclusion.
“Zandie is now part of the family,” said Tracey. “She is like Xavier’s sister. They are best friends and play together all the time. The kids call her super dog!”
“Xavier has changed. He didn’t have any friends before Zandie came along, but now he joins in. He has friends and they take him everywhere and help him; he doesn’t miss out now.”
“At the end of the school day Xavier yells for Zandie – not mum! His face lights up and loves introducing Zandie, or his ‘super dog’ to school friends.”
Guide Dogs WA has a 65% success rate in training puppies to become working Guide Dogs.
Puppies that aren’t suited as working Guide Dogs are engaged in roles that best fit their skills, such as a Companion Dog to children with vision impairment or other disabilities.
It takes two years and costs over $35,000 to train a Guide Dog and Guide Dogs WA relies on the support of the community to fund the training and support of Guide Dogs, Companion Dogs and other Buddy Dogs throughout their working life.