Tuesday 26 September 2017

Little toddler’s life ‘changed forever’ after he receives special assistance dog

Joseph and Star
Joseph and Star
Joseph O’Brien Murray
Joseph and Star
Star

Jennifer McShane

The parents of a two-year-old toddler who has a rare form of autism has said their son’s life has been ‘changed forever’ after they successfully campaigned to get him a special assistance dog.

Little Joseph O’Brien Murray (2) from Dublin suffers from Regressive Autism, which sees him go backwards in terms of his development.

His parents Michael Murray and Gillian O’Brien Murray have been campaigning vigorously since last year to get their son his much-needed companion – a special Autistic service dog, essential for his safety and development.

Thanks to their efforts, the two-year-old met his new fluffy friend on Monday – a female Golden Retriever named Star who is just 12 weeks old.

Joseph O’Brien Murray
Joseph O’Brien Murray

“We’re beyond thrilled that we could get Joseph his special dog,” Joseph’s father Michael told independent.ie.

“His life has already been changed forever,” he said, adding that the pair were getting on brilliantly after just a few days together. “They have been inseparable, and it’s incredible to realise what a positive difference Star will make to his life as she gets fully trained and grows with him.”

Star
Star

Mr Murray explained a little more about his son’s rare condition:

“Because of his rare form of autism, he basically goes backwards in terms of his development. So, for example he would have speech, but then he would stop talking or he would walk, and then regress back to crawling and so on,” he explained.

Joseph and Star
Joseph and Star

“He needs to be monitored constantly, and a dog is essential for his well being so getting Star was a must for us, not having one just wasn’t an option. If he goes into ‘flight mode’ he can just wander off and anything could happen to him.

“This terrifies us, so once the puppy is grown and fully trained, she will be strapped to him at all times,” Mr Murray added.

The couple needed to raise more than €6,000 for the special Autistic service dog (which they got from Service Dogs Europe, based in Dundalk), including  €1,100 VAT, and according to the family, they have almost reached their target.

“We are just so grateful for all the support we have received so far. We really can’t put into words how touched we feel, as people have been so kind and generous. We're not far off our target, we just have €1,700 left to gather. We are hoping to do a walk, and climb the Wicklow Mountains in April, which hopefully should bring us to our goal,” Mr Murray added.

He explained that one of these dogs could have been obtained at no cost – but Joseph would have had to go on a six-year waiting list before he could get one.

“We simply couldn’t afford to wait years for the dog, as Joseph needed one now, so our only option was to fundraise to gather the amount as we just didn’t have €6,000 to hand.

The family have set up an account for Joseph on ifundraise.ie called ‘Joseph’s Best Friend’ - https://www.ifundraise.ie/josephsbestfriend and they will be continuing to fundraise until they reach their target.

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