Alex's story

Buddy dog Chance has helped Alex in a myriad of ways in their two years together. When Chance first joined the family, Alex was terrified of dogs, due to a distressing incident at the local park, and would hide away in another room. A careful building of their relationship has resulted in a pair of best friends, who love breakfast time, muddy puddles, and sitting out in the sunshine.

Alex’s mum, Lindsey, says, “Alex contracted meningitis at three weeks old, and the prognosis was as bleak as you could get. We were told there was a good chance that we weren’t going to take him home.

“The bacteria damaged his optic nerve, and he has speech and developmental delays. But now Alex’s quality of life is much better than we could have imagined. 

“He wasn’t actually diagnosed with a visual impairment until he was four years old, because he didn’t have the communication skills to tell us what he could see. From here, we were able to find the excellent information that was out there, and via the Guide Dogs website we found out about buddy dogs.”

Lindsey and Alex’s dad, Martin, wanted to find ways to address Alex’s phobia of dogs. Martin had been out with Alex and Alex’s older brother Ross, collecting leaves for a school project when they were chased by a large, out-of-control dog. The dog knocked Alex over and bit Martin on the hand.

Martin says, “From then on, Alex would never go near a dog. He would scream, he would panic, and we'd always have to cross the road. Ross was very nervous of dogs too, but at least he had more of a logical understanding of what had happened.”

Lindsey says, “We tried to get Alex into horse riding as a form of therapy, but the fear transferred over, and he would never even go near the horse. I knew that Alex’s school was getting a therapy dog, so I was really keen to try and work through this.”

The family applied for a buddy dog and were coached through the process by Buddy Dog Partnership Specialist, Natalie. They had several meetings with golden retriever Chance before he came home with the family in January 2022.

Lindsey says, “Alex was hysterical at first and would hide from Chance in the playroom, but we had lots of ongoing support from Natalie. What really helped was having Ross read to Chance when he was calmly lying in bed. Alex could just observe and build his confidence. It took about three weeks, but everything clicked into place. Soon after getting Chance, Alex decided to help groom a horse at horse riding and even sit on one for the first time. The difference was phenomenal.”

Alex absolutely adores Chance and the feeling is reciprocated. Chance’s patience and wonderful calm side always come out when he's around Alex. He will wave his paws and jump around and wrestle with me, but he’s instantly gentle whenever Alex is in the room.
Martin, Alex's dad

Martin says, “It’s early days for what responsibilities Alex will be able to take on when it comes to Chance, but one of his favourite things is washing Chance’s feet when we get home from a muddy walk, although that may be more to do with playing with the hose and getting soaked. They both love mud and puddles.”

Soon after getting Chance, the family completed a 5km fundraising walk in aid of Guide Dogs. Alex lacks muscle tone, so lots of exercise can be particularly tiring for him. Now, because of Chance, he'll go on a five or six-mile walk at the weekend and has built up his stamina.

Chance has helped to teach Alex about sharing. Alex can have a bit of an issue with sharing, and Chance and Alex both love the same sort of noisy toys. Alex is learning that he needs to give toys back to Chance, which he's more willing to do for his dog than his brother!
Lindsey, Alex's mum

Lindsey says, “Chance has just been life-changing, for Alex and the whole family. I didn’t grow up with dogs, so he’s my first dog as well, and we just love having him around. He’s got a wonderful presence and is so well-behaved. Even just being able to go to the beach; before with dogs running around the boys couldn’t cope with it. Now Alex has his own pal and spends so much more time outside throwing a ball or sitting on the swing. We've all benefitted immensely.”