Pet Life Magazine, New Zealand Pet Life Magazine Issue 4 Spring 2017 - Page 5

she “knows it is a privilege not a right”. But Alastair wouldn’t have it any other way. “She’s a velcro dogs, she loves her cuddles. I’d hate to take that away from us. She’s a much loved pet as well as a working dog.” LIAM - earns an A for assistance Liam the Labrador makes life a whole lot richer for young Isaac and his family. The 8-year-old boy from Mt Maunganui has cerebral palsy and GDD (global development delay). He uses a wheelchair and a walker, cannot speak, experiences a lot of anxiety, and has little awareness of his personal safety. He requires 24-hour supervision. Enter Liam, from Assistance Dogs New Zealand. Life is good with Liam as the minder and best friend of Isaac, and the second “well-behaved” child of the family. “Liam’s great,” says mum Shelley. He’s given Isaac a new lease on life and her young son is now “super-happy” about doing things that in the past would have freaked him out. The family got 2-year old Liam in June this year. Top of his list of things to do is keeping Isaac safe. Isaac is quick to move about the house using furniture and the walls, and has no sense of danger. Being a big, strong dog, and tall, Liam is there to be leaned on to give Isaac stability. “He’s been trained not to move – he’s amazing at that,” says Shelley. In the short time that Liam has been with Isaac, he has also greatly helped the boy with his anxiety. “Being non-verbal, Isaac’s sensory world is tenfold what we are living with. Liam being there decreases his stress levels a lot,” says Shelley. “Having a bath used to turn into a screaming tantrum because of all the sensory issues. But since Liam has been there bath time is so much fun because he is leaning over the bath. He’s a distraction. Everything is fun when Liam is there.” Similarly, hospital visits were once extremely stressful for Isaac. He’d worry, “ahhhh, what are they going to do to me”, he didn’t like the elevator, and would usually start crying and screaming when he saw the surgeon. Shelley says Isaac breezed through his first hospital appointment with Liam at his side. “By incorporating Liam into all the scary experiences, and with Liam coping, it distracts and helps Isaac cope, too. “He enjoyed the appointment, which blew me away.” * To find ou New Zea t more about Ass land, vis istance D it ogs www.ass istanced ogstrust. org.nz. Liam goes to school with Isaac at Montessori@Arataki, and a special assembly was held in the school hall in his honour when he first arrived. In the past, Isaac was always scared of the school hall but on this day he sat at the front of the school assembly with his dog and just laughed. At the assembly, Liam showed off his tricks – high five, roll over, and responding to hand signals that Isaac can command him with, such as sit and lie down. “The kids are in awe of what Liam can do,” says Shelley. “The older Isaac has got the more isolating his condition is for him because children can see that something is wrong with him. But the whole school is involved in Liam. Now Isaac is famous – the kids want to talk to him because of his dog. At the park, the kids will come up to Isaac and talk to him about his dog. “It’s much richer having Liam in our lives.” And Isaac loves Liam. “Oh, my god, yes, without a doubt. That is his best friend. He adores Liam. Isaac laughs and giggles at him, Liam brings him so much fun.” But Liam takes his job very seriously, so it’s not all fun and games. When he is out and about in the community with Isaac he wears his blue Assistance Dog jacket. “They are different animals when they are wearing their coat – quite serious,” says Shelley. “Isaac recognises this too and tries to get Liam’s jacket off at school, because he is more playful without it, and he wants to show the kids what fun Liam is.” For time out, Liam loves chasing a ball in the park and would give any Grey Hound a good run for their money. But when he’s on the job, he’s always near, “just standing there as if to say everything is OK”. Rush - frontline of frontline police Catching baddies and having the backs of your comrade police officers is a pretty big job for a 2-year- old. But German Shepherd Rush is more than up to the task – he’s currently top dog of the national police patrol dog championships. Winning the 2016 title just three months after graduating as an operational team with Waikato District Senior Constable Blair Spalding, Rush is the youngest police dog to ever win the national champs. At 21 months old, Rush hit the street running, says his handler, Blair. “Usually there is a transition that dogs have to make leaving the training environment and entering the real world. He started catching people straight away, being a bit more defensive, suspicious of people, rather than chasing for the sake of it.” Rush is a general-purpose police dog. His “bread and butter” is track scent work, but he also recently trained in search and rescue to give him and Blair something else to do apart from finding bad people. “Otherwise everyone we deal with is a bad person,” says Blair. And that’s because Rush is the frontline of the frontline, getting called to the pointy end of incidences, from hunting down armed offenders to chasing after burglars who have taken off on foot. Police dogs respond to more than 30,000 incidents each year.