Man’s best friend

We are a family of animal lovers : we have 4 dogs, 1 cat and 6 chickens at home. Joshua is not a cat lover : when they were kittens, Joshua would tolerate them sitting on his knee but then would pick them up by their heads, ‘like a tennis ball’ I used to say and throw them onto the floor! I was amazed that the kittens would come back to him for more.

But he adores our dogs, they are great friends to him. Joshua has always had dogs in his life and always enjoys a dog walk, whether he is walking himself or , more recently, in his wheelchair. Nothing makes him giggle more than seeing the dogs dive into the river and swim. The three brothers, alsation/labrador crosses, were born at home when Joshua was just 3 years old so they have all grown up together.

We have Ruby, who is a 3-year-old cocker spaniel, and she has a special relationship with Joshua. she seems to be especially tuned into him when he has seizures. She rushes to his side and sits next to him, or on his knee, when he is fitting. We had a memorable dog walk on holiday in the Isle of Wight once when Ruby was younger : Joshua was reluctant to come on the walk but we insisted. With hindsight, he must have known his seizure was brewing which is why he did not want to walk, but you know what they say about hindsight? within about 3 minutes, Joshua fell to the floor in a seizure. we made him comfortable on the grass. A lady was walking her Saint Bernard close by and it came rushing over to ‘rescue’ Joshua and would not leave his side. Little Ruby thought that this protection was her job and she climbed onto his chest and snarled at the Saint Bernard, it was like David and Goliath, and very sweet.

Ruby came into Joshua’s school last friday and she behaved beautifully: she was so comfortable with all the attention from Joshua’s classmates and loyally trotted alongside Joshua’s wheelchair as we walked through the building. For a lively, bouncy young spaniel she settles down instantly when she is on the lead next to the wheelchair and assumes her important responsibility.

I would urge everyone with a child with special needs to have a dog, as a friend and companion for your child.   It is a really rewarding relationship and everyone benefits from it.

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