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Dublin: 2 °C Saturday 16 November, 2019
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Good news as autism help dog found alive and well

Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland has issued a massive ‘Thank You’ to those who searched overnight for Darcy, the black Labrador.

Darcy relaxing.
Darcy relaxing.
Image: Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland via Facebook

AFTER A TENSE 24-hour search, autism assistance dog Darcy has been found in Ennis.

The good news comes after a major panic among the dog’s owners and charity group Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland.

The black Labrador became separated from his family while out on a walk yesterday morning and could not be found anywhere during the day, despite an extensive search.

Ennis dog warden Frankie stayed up overnight to continue the operation and Darcy was eventually found in an abandoned house in the area. He is said to be doing well and is not injured.

“He was spooked by something and charged off,” explained owner Miriam Coptu, who was delighted that the family dog was en route to their home as she spoke to TheJournal.ie.

Darcy came to live with them last August and has made a dramatic difference to the daily life of her eight-year-old daughter.

Sadia lives with autism and is non-verbal.

“She has come along a lot since Darcy,” explains Miriam. “He interacts with her. She communicates with him in her own way. She now has two-word sentences such as ‘Come inside’ and ‘Darcy Jump’.

“It is amazing to see these things. He is a big part of our lives now.”

Darcy will be taken to the vet for a full checkup but first he will be reunited with Sadia.

What is an autism assistance dog?

Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland provides highly-trained assistance dogs to children with autism free of charge. The charity was established in 2010 and relies on volunteer trainers and fundraisers.

When a puppy is born, it is placed with a volunteer family which cares for it in their home for the first year. It is taken to places that it needs to be able to deal with when it becomes an assistance dog and gets used to wearing a red worker’s jacket. When it is about one, it is returned to the organisation for formal training with assistance dog trainer Nuala Geraghty for four to five months.

“Their role is mainly about the safety of the child,” Geraghty told TheJournal.ie. “The child wears a belt, which is attached to the jacket of the dog. Often, children with autism have no sense of danger and can bolt across roads etc. This keeps them safe and allows parents to relax, giving the child some independence.

“They make going outside a much more relaxing event. Life is more stressful and families often stop going out as a unit. This maintains safety and reduces anxiety.”

As well as the more practical role, assistance dogs also become a friend to the child with autism.

“They are a source of comfort,” continued Geraghty. “A constant friend in a home environment. A lot of the time, these children might not have friends.”

Learn more about Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland here.

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