Charity’s public appeal for foster dog carers

The new shop in Limavady
The new shop in Limavady

A Limavady-based charity which provides highly-trained dogs to children with autism and adults with disabilities, “transforming their lives”, is appealing for volunteers.

Assistance Dogs Northern Ireland has been based at the business park in Aghanloo since last year, and is about to open a charity shop in Limavady in the next couple of weeks.

One of the dogs, Rowan

One of the dogs, Rowan

CEO, Geraldine McGaughey, says they need shop volunteers and explained all profits from the shop will help Assistance Dogs NI train “life-transforming dogs” to people throughout the north who need them.

The charity mainly provide dogs for children with autism, and adults with physical disabilities and has also provided the first-ever court assistance dog in the UK, Ireland and Europe.

Geraldine explained for children with autism, safety is the paramount concern.

The dog, controlled by an adult, is attached to the child with a harness. When out and about, the dog is trained sit at every kerb and not move. Should the child try to run off, the dog will act as, what Geraldine describes, an anchor.

“Anything else that occurs, over and beyond that, is a bonus,” said Geraldine, who said in one case a child spoke their first words with their dog, while another said their first spontaneous sentence with the dog’s name in the middle of it. She said the dogs provide a great calming effect, not just for the recipient, but also for their family.

“The dog becomes their best friend and they are an anxiety buster,” she said, explaining recipients keep the dog until they retire.

Geraldine says as well as volunteers for the shop, which is located in Connell Street car park in Limavady, they are looking for foster carers for dogs. Volunteers must be physically fit and preferably work part-time, or be retired as they cannot be away from the dog for more than four hours.

The foster care period is between 12 and 18 months and substantial assistance will be provided for volunteers. If you want to volunteer contact Assistance Dogs NI on 028 77768761.