Lachlan was four months old when doctors revealed he was completely blind.
His mum Janine said her head was spinning as medical professionals started talking about a future of white canes and guide dog assistance for her infant son.
As Lachlan got older, he and his family adjusted to his disability. However, Lachlan – now three-years-old – was struggling socially, especially with his speech. This encouraged Janine to start looking for options to build his confidence.
Like most kids, Lachlan had taken a liking to dogs, so Janine thought perhaps man’s best friend would be a great buddy for her son. However, given Lachlan’s age and condition, any old dog just wouldn’t cut it.
Enter ‘Pets As Therapy’.
Pets As Therapy, known affectionately as PAT, is a program run by Guide Dogs NSW and ACT, designed to “fulfil the companionship needs” of those “disadvantaged because of age, illness, disability or isolation.” The service is provided for free to those who need it.
“When people saw Lachlan using a white cane they would back away to give him space,” Janine explained. “We were hopeful that owning a PAT dog would encourage others to approach us and allow Lachlan to make friends.”
Guide Dogs NSW introduced Lachlan to Kody – a gorgeous golden Labrador, almost as adorable as little Lachlan.
“Lachlan loved Kody from the first meeting. Kody has a very placid gentle nature and immediately laid down to allow Lachlan to touch him,” Janine told LifeStyle.
“He is so careful around Lachlan, never jumping, pushing or licking and rarely barking.”
Within months – even days – Lachlan had improved immensely.
“Kody is always there to provide love and companionship and is a calming influence when Lachlan is unsettled,” Janine says. “Lachlan's speech and social skills greatly improved as he enjoys talking about Kody and telling everyone about his dog.”
Not only has Kody opened the door to a more active social life, he is also a helpful learning tool.
“Kody is happy to sit and allow Lachlan to find his ears, paws and tail, this has been a fantastic hands on learning tool for Lachlan to visualise what a dog looks like,” Janine explains.
“This information can then be used to describe other types of animals, for example it would be difficult for a child to feel a lion but we can describe the similarities and differences using Kody as a reference point.”
With Kody, Lachlan is better able to see the world and interact with the people in it. He is well on his way to being able to handle a guide dog.
Pets As Therapy is an initiative of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.