Isla’s spe­cial com­pan­ion Bo

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - TOM CARNEGIE

Just over a month ago Bo moved in with the Stythe fam­ily.

A trained as­sis­tance dog, Bo has be­come a com­pan­ion to Isla Stythe, 7, who has a rare chro­mo­some dele­tion dis­or­der.

Isla’s mum, Sara, says the pos­i­tive im­pact Bo has had on the fam­ily, who live in Glen­dowie, has been huge.

‘‘Those with as­sis­tance dogs told me our lives would change but I must ad­mit I was qui­etly scep­ti­cal.

‘‘How­ever now as th­ese changes have be­come the norm, I have to keep re­mind­ing my­self how things are so much bet­ter and eas­ier ‘af­ter Bo’ and he re­ally has made a dif­fer­ence in our lives,’’ Sara says.

As­sis­tance dogs are dif­fer­ent to guide dogs as they are pur­pose­bred and trained to as­sist a range of dis­abil­i­ties.

In 2013, Isla was di­ag­nosed with 2q23.1 Mi­crodele­tion Syn­drome, which causes autism, de­vel­op­ment de­lay and epilepsy.

Sara says Isla is a sen­sory seeker, mean­ing she needs to touch to ex­plore her en­vi­ron­ment con­stantly.

This meant walk­ing could be a chal­lenge for Isla’s par­ents, as she would con­stantly want to stop to ex­plore her en­vi­ron­ment.

‘‘Walk­ing now is com­pletely dif­fer­ent. Tethered to Bo, Isla has the free­dom to still touch or at least try to but she keeps a steady pace.

‘‘She likes to feel the dif­fer­ent tex­tures of the fences as we walk up the hill from school and names them woody, smooth, bumpy.’’

It costs $48,000 to raise and train a dog through its life­time, and As­sis­tance Dogs NZ asks the fam­i­lies to fundraise $20,000 to­wards this.

The Stythes fundraised $23,000 for Bo and Sara says they are in­cred­i­bly grate­ful to ev­ery­one who do­nated.

Bo and Isla will be tak­ing part in this year’s Woof and Walk event or­gan­ised by As­sis­tance Dogs New Zealand at One Tree Hill Do­main.

The event is an or­gan­ised group walk for dog own­ers to raise aware­ness and funds for the char­ity. As well as the walk there will be ac­tiv­i­ties for dogs and a photo booth for kids.

The Woof and Walk event is on Novem­ber 13. The walk starts at 1.30pm. En­try costs $10 per per­son, chil­dren are free.

For more in­for­ma­tion go to as­sis­tance­dogstrust.org.nz/woofand-walk-2016/.

SUP­PLIED / HEART­STRINGS PHOTOGRAPHY

As­sis­tance dog Bo helps Isla walk and com­forts her when she sleeps at night.

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