An unlikely team have reached the grand finals of the Crufts Dog Championships, the international canine event has announced.
Joel Sayer and his autism assistance dog, Caddie the golden retriever, are proud to be competing in the annual dog show this March.
The pair are among four finalists entered into the Crufts Eukanuba Friends for Life competition, dedicated to dogs that provide service, support, love and devotion.
Joel’s parents, from Cornwall, claim that Caddie changed their son’s life for good.
“He knows he can trust Caddie, Caddie is that permanent thing that is already there, so in this world that he lives, in that is so uncertain in his eyes, Caddie is that presence that’s always there and I think he feels calm,” said mum Janet.
Caddie is a specially trained autism assistance dog, trained by Oxfordshire-based charity Dogs for Good. As well as being trained to sense when Joel is stressed, he serves predominantly as a companion.
Janet claims that before 13-year-old Joel met Caddie four years ago, Joel rarely smiled and would never leave the house.
“Joel didn’t want to go anywhere, everything frightened him too much and for us inside it was like we were in just a big darkness all around us,” she said.
Now Joel, with the enjoyment and responsibility of Caddie, is able to visit local cafes, the cinema, and the aquarium – placed he would never be able to visit before the two were paired.
The overall winner of Eukanuba Friends for Life will be announced live at Crufts on 12th March 2017. The winner will receive £5,000 for their chosen charity and crowned a Crufts champion.