Isaac and Riley's story

The support our dogs can bring often goes far beyond the person with a vision impairment. For 12 year old Isaac, who has glaucoma caused by a rare neurological condition, buddy dog Riley brings him comfort and calm. But he’s not the only one who’s benefited. The whole house has become a happier place since golden retriever Riley moved in.

From the moment we first met Riley I knew getting a buddy dog was the right thing for our family. We were all falling in love with her.
Louise, Isaac's mum

When 12 year old Isaac was born, his mum Louise immediately noticed his skin looked different. For the first week she was told it was bruising which would fade. When it didn’t, she learnt it was a birthmark, caused by Sturge Weber Syndrome, a rare neurological condition. And because Isaac’s birthmark is over his eye, it affects his sight.

“At first, I thought his eyes were ok, but the dermatologist told me he needed them testing every few weeks. By then the eye pressure from the glaucoma was already sky high. It was a brutal blow.”

In 2022, when Isaac was certified as having a vision impairment, mum Louise approached Guide Dogs keen to find out how the charity could help their family. “I had already been considering getting a dog because Isaac loves animals and they help calm him when he’s anxious.” Louise learnt about our buddy dogs and quickly applied. Six months later the family travelled to the Guide Dogs National Centre in Leamington to meet two-year-old golden retriever Riley. And from the first moment they met Riley, a bond was formed.

I kept watching the boys throwing the ball for Riley and playing together. But she was equally affectionate with them both too – it was everything I had hoped for in a dog.
Louise, Isaac's mum

The family were filmed for the Channel 5 series 'Puppy School for Guide Dogs'. Since then, buddy dog Riley has settled into family life. Younger brother Theo measures out her food every morning, and Isaac has been enjoying setting up brain training exercises for her. And Riley has also brought the calm and comfort Louise was hoping for. “Isaac loves it when Riley sits with him at bedtime when he’s chilling with his iPad. He really looks forward to that time of day.”

The family are now looking forward to taking Riley to the beach this summer. And Mum Louise says she’s had a positive impact on each of them.

Riley has brought so much happiness to our family. She’s brought calmness to Isaac. For Theo she’s a friend when I have to go away with Isaac for hospital appointments. And I love having her there to greet me when I come home.
Louise, Isaac's mum