Founded in April 2010, and situated in Mallow Co. Cork. Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland (AADI), is a national charity established to provide a primary quality service to children with autism, and to help improve their lives, and the lives of their families.
As children with autism often have no sense of danger, the dogs are mainly used for safety. The child is attached to an assistance dog by a belt, and the parent holds the dog on a leash, allowing the child to walk independently of their parent.
Adam Lacey from Cork Volunteer Centre, recently had the chance to sit down with CEO Nuala Geraghty to gain a better insight and discuss the work done by Autism Assistance dogs Ireland, an organisation which she says “couldn’t survive” without the involvement of volunteers, “they are the lifeblood of the organisation”.
Two of the main areas AADI seek volunteer involvement are in Puppy Fostering and Dog sitting. Nuala explains what these roles entail. For puppy fostering, “the volunteers raise the puppies in their own homes for 12 months.” The aim of the volunteer is to socialise the puppy, and take it out in public. The dogs wear a special red vest that allows them access in public areas, and AADI covers the costs of food, training vet visits and equipment.
Puppy Fosterer Liz Shanahan, who is now fostering her 3rd dog explains to Adam how the work AADI do is a win / win for both her family and the family that will eventually receive the dog. Liz says that she was always hesitant to get a dog despite her kids requests, as having grown up with dogs, she knew the commitment required.
While in Douglas library Liz happened upon a flyer for AADI, and seeing that the dog would only require a year of care, she felt that it would be a good opportunity to bring a puppy into their household, but if it didn’t work out, she would only have it for a year.
An important factor Liz highlights is that Puppy Fosterers need to be aware that it is not their dog. They have the dog for a purpose and no matter the weather, you have to be prepared to get up and walk the dog every morning. “People need to know what they’re getting in for, and realise this is not their dog for life”. The dogs not only benefit the future family, but can have such a positive impact on the foster family.
The knowledge that you are starting this dog on its journey to helping a family down the line, as well as the emotional support, and distractions caring for a dog can have really make it a worthwhile investment, for those willing to accept the time commitment. Liz also commends the work being done by AADI, and the support they get on a regular basis.
There is also a social aspect to the fostering, and a group of carers usually meet with the dogs on a weekly basis for training, taking the dogs through various new situations, like open thread staircases or just going through shops and socialising the dogs.
As AADI don’t use Kennels for their dogs, they look for volunteers who will kindly look after their dogs for both short and long term boarding. This kind of role may suit people who can not completely commit to 12 months, but would still like to help out. Short term boarding usually means you would have a puppy staying with you for a weekend, or a couple of weeks while the puppies family are on holidays. Socialising the puppy is still an important part of boarding, even if the dog is just staying for a few nights.
As it costs up to €15000 per dog to ready them for their life as an assistance dog, AADI rely on donations, fundraising and volunteer support to ensure the service is their for families that need it.
If you would like to learn more about volunteering with AADI, you can check out their website AutismAssistanceDogsIreland.ie, or indeed if you would like to volunteer in any of the other sectors, we would greatly encourage you to register online at VolunteerCork.ie and we can arrange a meeting to help find the perfect volunteer opportunity for you. You can also find us on Twitter: @VolunteerCork and Facebook: Cork Volunteer Centre where you can keep up to date with all our latest opportunities, events and general happenings in Cork.
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