This Sunday, 13-year-old Joel, his dog Caddie and mum Janet will appear on BBC Songs of Praise, Joel describes Caddie as his guardian angel:“This world we live in I find hard, I find everything hard, but Caddie keeps me safe, he keeps me calm.”
“We’ve been through some difficult times, explains Janet.“As a baby Joel had sleep apnoea and he didn’t really speak until he was five. He’s always needed extra care and support.” At primary school he struggled to cope and refused to join in, often he would become anxious and hugely distressed.
As Joel got older, leaving the house became increasingly dangerous. He refused to hold Janet’s hand and would run off. One day he skipped out into the road in front of a car, another time he hid in a shop and Janet was left frantic until he was found. Joel was diagnosed with autism aged 7, says Janet: “Some days were overwhelming, but my faith has really helped me. I always felt that someone was with me,guiding me to find the support I needed for Joel.Even now, when I have to leave Joel, I feel that my prayers are keeping him safe.”
In September 2012 Joel was matched with Caddie, an autism assistance dog from Dogs for Good, Janet explains, “The first day we met Caddie it was just amazing. Joel agreed to go into the garden – something he’d refused to do for months. My husband Kevin broke down in tears; we knew Caddie was going to transform our lives.”
“Caddie’s opened up the world to us and to Joel. We can go out as a family, walk safely to the shops, drop Joel off at school, and take him to hospital appointments – anywhere, Caddie rests his head on Joel if he feels anxious and has become his constant friend, his guardian angel.”
You can sponsor a puppy for £5 a month. Through your sponsorship puppies can receive special training to become autism assistance dogs.