Mobility dog in happy place
THE generosity of a 96-yearold woman is helping get more mobility dogs into the disabled community.
Olive Stoddard has been sponsoring the dogs for three years.
Her fifth has now become the first dog in the Puppies with People programme – a plan to impact larger groups of people instead of individuals.
It is an initiative of the Mobility Assistance Dogs Trust, which trains the animals to work with people who have physical disabilities.
The two-year-old labrador, named Olive after her donor, is a therapy dog at Elizabeth Knox Home & Hospital – the same place Mrs Stoddard worked as a nurse more than 30 years ago.
Olive has been at the care home for six months after graduating from the Puppies in Prison programme.
Mrs Stoddard monitors the progress of all the dogs she helps fund and even goes into jails to meet the prisoners who train them.
She says going to the prison is ‘‘just like normal, like you are going into the gym’’.
There are 25 mobility dogs in training at the women’s correctional facility in Wiri and the men’s prison in Springhill.
Mobility Assistance Dogs Trust general manager Jody Wilson says the programme is successful.
‘‘A lot of these people who are in prison are there for a whole variety of reasons ... and I think these dogs can give them an opportunity to succeed at something, to feel valued.’’
Elizabeth Knox Home & Hospital volunteer coordinator Kristen O’Reilly appreciates the difference Olive makes in the lives of residents and patients.
‘‘There are a lot who might have a hard time making friends because their vision or hearing is impaired.
‘‘But Olive will just cuddle up to anyone.
‘‘She ended up getting put in a rest home where such a social dog should be,’’ she says.
Mrs Stoddard enjoys the relationships with the mobility dogs and seeing the difference they make.
She now has a sixth sponsored dog in training and shows no sign of stopping her generous donations.
‘‘Everything you radiates,’’ she says.
It costs $50,000 for each placement of a mobility dog.
Good cause: Olive Stoddard, Jody Wilson, Kristen O’Reilly and Olive the Mobility Dog at Elizabeth Knox in Epsom.
In training: Olive Stoddard speaks to a prisoner responsible for training Olive the labrador, in 2012.