Young Jake's mobility dog a first for Taranaki
The beaming smile on Jake Ryan's face is testimony to the hard work put into training the dog that will change his life.
The 10-year-old Bell Block Primary student suffers from type one glutaric aciduria, a rare metabolic disease which confines him to a wheelchair.
Jake is the first person in Taranaki to receive a trained mobility dog that will assist him every day for the next 10 years.
Louie, a golden retriever, is trained to open doors and gates, carry things, brace so that Jake can pull himself up from the floor, sound an alert if Jake or his wheelchair gets stuck and provide general companionship.
Louie's arrival was the next step in Jake's independence, Jake's mother Michelle said.
"You just can't wipe the smile off his face," she said.
"Usually I have to go to school with Jake to open the gate, now he can go by himself."
Mobility Assistance Dogs Trust trainer Natalie Ramm said the results were worth the intensive training.
"There's always a part of you that goes with them, but it's completely offset by seeing Louie do something for Jake, and that's all he wants to do."
"That's why we spent two years doing this."
Although it would take a while to get to grips with the commands, Jake's confidence had improved already.
The support from staff and students at the school helped hugely and Louie was fitting in well, Mrs Ryan said.
"He's already part of the family. Last night I said: ‘Time for bed boys,' and it's only been four days."
She said she was excited and grateful for the new addition to the family.
"The dogs are very rarely put into schools but we were lucky."
Bell Block principal Roz Miller said Jake had always done as much as he could for himself, so Louie was a great addition.
"Our job with any child is to develop independence."
At a school assembly, the pupils were introduced to Louie and learned why they were not allowed to pat him or whistle at him.
"It's a great opportunity to educate 300 odd children about mobility dogs," Mrs Miller said.
Louie spent the first year of his life in Auckland Women's Prison in the Puppies in Prison programme, then underwent seven months of advanced training.
Taranaki Daily News