For those living with cerebral palsy, life can be challenging both physically and socially. For 13-year-old Maddy, her disability affects her legs, preventing her from walking independently and doing simple tasks like picking up items from the floor or taking off clothes and shoes. As a result, Maddy often feels left behind by and unable to participate in activities such as sports or games with her peers, leaving her feeling left out and isolated.

    Maddy had always wanted a dog to love and care for, and that’s where Mobility Dogs came in. Maddy’s mum has worked for Mobility Dogs since the start of 2022, but she first heard about Mobility Dogs when Maddy was 8 years old. At that stage Maddy didn’t meet the age-related criteria for a Mobility Dog (16 years+), but when the Companion Dog programme was established, they decided to re-apply.

    A golden retriever sitting on the grass with a mum and her two daughters, all smiling up at the camera

    Maddy (left), her mum Gemma (middle), Maddy’s sister Grace (right) and Avery.

    Once Maddy was accepted, the process of finding the right dog for her began. The trainers discussed their expectations and what skills would help support Maddy best. From her work with Mobility Dogs, Maddy’s mum knew that they would not be matched with a dog straight away and that they would need to wait for the right dog to come along that suited their family and their needs. They were eventually matched with Avery, and after a one-month trial, it was clear that Avery was the perfect dog for their family.

    Since Avery has joined their family, Maddy’s life has changed in countless ways. Avery helps her with simple tasks like taking off shoes and socks, closing drawers and doors, and nudging open sliding doors. But more importantly, Avery provides Maddy with companionship, love, and a constant source of comfort. Avery has filled their days with fun and love, and Maddy no longer feels lonely or left out.

    “Avery will often come and lay her head in my lap when I am feeling a little low. The first time she did this it was beyond wonderful; it was like she knew I was sad.”

    Having Avery encourages Maddy and her family to get outdoors more, providing opportunities for exercise and fun. Going out into the community now is also different as people are more willing to come up and chat with them when they see them walking on the beach or down the street.

    When asked about Avery’s personality, Maddy describes her as loving, loyal and cheeky. Avery has impacted Maddy’s life in so many positive ways, providing her with friendship and support when she needs it most

    “Having Avery is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” says Maddy, “I now have a best friend”.