'We can't imagine a life without him': How buddy dog ​​Cooper has changed a Gateshead family's life - petsitterbank

‘We can’t imagine a life without him’: How buddy dog ​​Cooper has changed a Gateshead family’s life

A visually impaired 12-year-old’s life changed for good the day ‘buddy dog’ Cooper came into her life.

Ruby Darbyshire from Gateshead was born prematurely at 30 weeks, but it wasn’t until she was six years old that doctors diagnosed her with cerebral visual impairment (CVI) caused by a brain malformation. CVI impacts the way the brain reads and interprets signals from the eyes.

The condition is regularly misdiagnosed and as Ruby is long-sighted and had delayed development, it was thought this was the reason for her difficulties. Her mum Lisa Darbyshire, said: “Ruby’s vision is variable, and she can see less well when she is tired or in conditions with poor weather or lighting. She has reduced acuity, tires more easily, gets easily distracted, and finds it difficult to negotiate unlevel surfaces.”

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A few months ago, Golden Retriever buddy dog ​​Cooper came into the Darbyshires’ lives and changed everything. Buddy dogs are dogs that have been given a career change because life as a guide dog wasn’t quite right for them.

These dogs are there to support visually impaired children as a friend and companions. Cooper wasn’t able to become a guide dog due to a skin condition, but this led him to be matched with Ruby as a buddy dog.

Lisa explains: “We were of course aware of Guide Dogs but we hadn’t heard of their buddy dog ​​service. It was during an activity run by another charity where I spoke to another family who has a buddy dog ​​which led me to speak to Guide Dogs – and the rest is history.

“Our Guide Dogs specialist has been a huge help to us in ensuring that we were prepared for Cooper’s arrival but has also been in regular contact during his placement to help us with any issues or questions. Cooper is the most patient and loving dog I have ever known, and he immediately fits right into our family. Already we can’t imagine a life without him.

“Since having Cooper, Ruby has gained so much more than a dog – she has a best friend. He has given her the opportunity to gain responsibility and independence – something which she needs to develop, but it can be tricky for a child with multiple disabilities.”

Having Cooper means that Ruby can develop and improve her fine motor skills. She uses her scales to measure Cooper’s food allowance twice daily, puts on his harness for each walk, and is learning how to put on the lead.



Buddy dog ​​Cooper and Ruby Darbyshire

Lisa added: “Cooper has treatment twice a week for his skin condition and Ruby takes responsibility for starting this process each time by getting his bag and following each part of his treatment which I administer. She gives him treats as rewards.

“Most importantly, Cooper gives Ruby a reason to go out of the house each evening. As a child with a vision impairment and other disabilities, she can become very isolated in her bedroom – now with Cooper she wants to go out and walk with him, so he is really helping with her exercise and social interaction.”

And it’s not only Ruby who he has an amazing bond with. Lisa says: “He truly is a part of the family and is adored by both Ruby’s brothers – four-year-old Oliver and Lewis, aged 17.”

Ruby adds: “Cooper is the best dog ever as he loves playing with his toys with me.”

Robbie Campbell, Canine Assisted Partnership Specialist at Guide Dogs said: “Ruby and Cooper are an amazing example of the positive effect that buddy dogs can have on the wellbeing of a child with a vision impairment, helping to develop their self-confidence, life skills , and social interaction – as well as a wonderful sense of fun and companionship. We are hoping to expand the scheme across Newcastle and the North East and would love to hear from local families who may benefit from a buddy dog ​​and are interested in finding out more.

“A buddy dog ​​is not a guide dog and does not provide mobility assistance. It joins the family as a pet and teaches a visually impaired child the responsibility and enjoyment of caring for and living with a dog. Just like Ruby and her family, we’ve heard from many other buddy dog ​​families across the UK how much their life has transformed.”

For more information about Guide Dogs’ buddy dogs for children, visit here

Do you have a dog that has special qualities? Let us know in the comments below.

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