Our dog has been a bridge to the world
My son Oisín was just 4 years old when we got our Assistance Dog Villy. We couldn’t believe it, we were so lucky.
Before we got our dog, we were pretty isolated. Oisín didn’t like going out of the house and had no road awareness. He would only tolerate going out in a buggy for 5 minutes. I knew that pretty soon he would grow too big for that.
Oisín didn’t have speech and was happiest at home, where it was quieter and relaxed. More than one person talking was too noisy for him and he would cover his ears. I was worried about the future. Like all parents, we just wanted our son to be able to thrive and be happy. So, when I heard through social media that the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind were opening their list I jumped at the chance.
I remember sitting with Oisín on one side and frantically pressing the button on my iPad when the portal opened. When I got a phone call that we would get Villy 6 years ago it was the best Christmas present ever! The week’s training was fantastic. My trainers were very professional but also really supportive. I made lifelong friends with other parents on the course.
Villy is a really playful, interactive dog. She just loves attention! However, when she gets on her blue jacket, she is totally calm. I knew that I could completely rely on her to keep Oisín safe. She stops at every road. It was great to be able to go out without the buggy. Oisín seemed to get ‘into the zone’ and be content to walk longer and longer. The walking helped his motor skills a lot too.
It was a gradual process of bonding and didn’t happen straight away. However, now they are inseparable. Oisín feels she is part of his family. His older brother has gone abroad and he misses him a lot, but says that Villy can be a stand in for him.
When he comes home from school Villy bounds up to him and she is the first to get a big "Hello" from Oisín. She is by his side every minute that he is home and he’s very caring to her. He’s even taught her a few tricks and knows all the dog commands like ‘wait’ and ‘down’. He claps his hand on his lap and she puts her head on it so he can stroke her.
Oisín loves talking to his dog and she was a great motivator for speech. It’s helped his language as he is really relaxed with Villy as she never puts any demands on him. She will respond to him every time he talks, usually with a big grin and wagging tail. He can speak without any fear of a lot of questions back. She is predictable and friendly, so he can feel completely secure and in control when he’s with her.
He has now learnt all about dogs, what they eat, how they see and their body language. He grooms her and feeds her a treat every day. We have a lot of laughs as she’s always doing something funny. Sometimes she sleeps with all her legs in the air.
She’s been great for the whole family as no matter how stressful life is, Villy is always happy to see us. She is a focal point for the whole home. We can’t imagine life without her.
Our dog has been a bridge to the world. She is loyal to our son and a true companion. We are really grateful to everyone at the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and all of the fundraisers and volunteers. Thank you so much for giving us such an amazing, gentle dog and for making our lives so much better.