Jack's on the move without his walking frame
A GOLDEN retriever has "changed everything" for a boy who can now discard his bright blue walking frame.
Up to one month ago, Jack Caldwell (9), from Co Clare, had to use the frame to help him walk because of his cerebral palsy.
However, now that 'Aggie', a golden retriever who helps him walk, has been brought into the family home, his life has changed for the better.
Yesterday, Jack became the youngest person to receive an assistance dog from Irish Dogs for the Disabled.
"When he was going out in his walking frame, everyone looked at the frame and they saw the disability before himself. He hated that. He used to get embarrassed," his mother Emer Sherry said.
"Now everyone notices Aggie, so the whole burden of having a physical disability has been lifted for him in his own mind."
The charity donates guide dogs to people who need them for help with mobility, after the animals have been trained for up to eight months. Ten people were given the dogs last year, while Jack is the first person to get one in 2010.
"The skills that the dog is good at are matched with the person with the disability," said chief executive Ger Dillon.
The charity hopes to hand over another nine dogs by the end of this year.
Health Minister Mary Harney was on hand to help with the 'graduation' ceremony after she approved a grant of €75,000 from the National Lottery for the charity.
"When Jack walks with Aggie, he walks with one stick and one hand holding onto the harness," his father John Caldwell said.
"The difference the dog brings is confidence. The dog helps him integrate more with his class."