Max Snedker and Kirsty – Buddy dogs service

Max Snedker and Kirsty in living roomMax Snedker has faced a number of challenges in his young life, but his buddy dog and new best pal Kirsty is helping him get out and about and bond with his family and friends.

Max and his twin sister Jenna were born prematurely, at only 26 weeks. As a result, Max is severely visually impaired, has epilepsy, learning difficulties, autistic tendencies and cerebral palsy.

Buddy dog Kirsty was matched with Max and his family in March 2012 and, the sprightly and sociable golden retriever is already helping the whole family live life to the full and helping Max achieve things that the family had previously thought were impossible.

Buddy dogs play a very different role to Guide Dogs. Kirsty is slowly helping Max become more mobile, encouraging him to be more sociable and is proving to be a calming influence.

Max’s mum Kerry said: “He struggles with balance and can easily fall, and because he can’t see things he can easily trip over as well. So getting around can be difficult for him and we worry about him hurting himself.”

Max Snedker and Kirsty on a sail boatSince Kirsty moved into the Snedker family home in Farnham, Max has been able to spend more time out of his wheelchair. He now walks more often and for longer distances with Kirsty on a lead which has helped him build up strength in his legs.

On a good morning, following a long sleep, Max is now able to walk up to a mile and a half with Kirsty. Kerry, Max’s mum, hopes he will eventually be able to walk to school every day, just like any other child.

Kerry said: “Nowadays, as soon as Max wakes up in the morning the first thing he says is Mummy I want to walk my dog today.”

The added exercise means that Max’s legs are going from strength to strength. His physiotherapist is absolutely delighted with his progress, which will help Max to develop stronger bones and improve his chances of being less dependent on a wheelchair.

Max and Kirsty with twin sister JennaAs well has helping improve Max’s mobility, Kirsty is also helping him with his social skills. His learning difficulties mean that Max finds it difficult to form bonds and relationship. Since Kirsty arrived Max has become more sociable. Kerry commented: “Max has gone from not wanting to touch animals to asking Kirsty to lie beside him.”

Summing up the impact that Kirsty has had on the family, Kerry said: “The positive impact Kirsty has had on Max is immeasurable, but she’s been brilliant for all of us as a family. When we’re out with Kirsty people come up to us to chat about her, which is lovely because that wouldn’t have happened before.

“Sometimes Max will flop down on the floor and disappear into a distant dream-like state. It's very difficult to snap him out of it. But Kirsty will wander over and give him a great big lick across his face to jolt him out of it. It sends him into fits of giggles. It's wonderful to see.”

Max Snedker walking with Kirsty and DadThe Buddy Dogs service supports blind and partially sighted children and young people. For children like Max, having a buddy dog can help increase their confidence and wellbeing. They help encourage them to take part in physical activities, such as walking and playing games, and encourage them to socialise with other children. Buddy dogs also give young people the opportunity to experience the responsibility of caring for a dog, preparing some for possible guide dog ownership in the future.

To find out more about this service and Guide Dogs’ other mobility services visit: www.guidedogs.org.uk/services or call 0345 1430224.

Calls to our Mobility teams will cost 3 pence per minute plus your telephone company’s access charge.