Guide dogs 'have given us back our lives'
PICASSO isn't just an assistance dog to Noah Coughlan – he's his best friend too.
And the seven-year-old's assistance dog has also given him a new independence.
Noah's mum Donna said she always had to hold his hand in case he'd run off, which meant she couldn't take her eyes off him for a minute. But now he attaches to Picasso's jacket and the German Shepherd/Retriever keeps an eye on him.
"He feels bigger and more mature and is happier to walk along. And you know that he can't run off on you," she said. Thanks to the guidance of his assistance dog, retriever cross Cassie, Darach Mac Con Iomaire (10) is now able to do things he has never done before.
Darach suffers from Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic form of autism that causes him huge social anxiety to the point that he could take flight and run off.
But since Cassie came into their Wexford home a year ago, the Mac Con Iomaire family's lives have been transformed.
Darach's mum Sheila McNally said she had no idea just how much having her would help.
"Cassie is a calming influence on him in every situation, and as a result, the whole family can breathe easier. We're all less stressed," she said.
"We can look forward to so many previously impossible daily outings, family occasions and holidays because we have her. And because Darach feels safer with her, he is more likely to say 'hi' to people we meet, or he can always hide underneath her."
Sheila says her son will now do a lot of things that previously were a battle for her and her husband, Colm.
She said having Cassie had also helped Darach's younger brother Oisin (9) who was having to bear responsibility beyond his years.
"Irish Guide Dogs has given us back a quality of life and ability to participate in life that we thought we had lost," she added.