About two years ago a fundraising journey began for the Younger family, to raise money for a therapy dog to assist their four children.
All the children suffer from varying degrees of autism, but it wasn’t until their youngest daughter, Aeryn, was diagnosed at 18 months that parents Jeremy and Leigh became aware of the benefits of therapy dogs. They found this through the Bendigo-based Righteous Pups Australia program.
After much investigation and soul searching the couple decided this would be a massive benefit to the entire family and applied to DKD (Dogs of Kids with Disabilities) in Melbourne.
The family met with DKD’s founder and head trainer Katie Hunter and were delighted with all the children’s responses to the dog.
‘Walter’ was placed with the family six months ago and mum Leigh said they have already noticed significant changes to the children’s behaviours.
The couple and their children — Imogen (14), Dominic (11), Nathaniel (7) and Aeryn (6) — were in Deniliquin at the weekend visiting Jeremy’s mum, Ann Crossley.
‘‘Walter’s calming presence helps provide Aeryn with serotonin, which helps sooth her to avoid meltdowns and also helps her deal with unexpected noises and unfamiliar environments,’’ Mrs Younger said.
‘‘Sometimes autistic children become inconsolable and this is where the dog comes in. Walter helps all the children at different times with various issues.’’
The dogs are highly skilled and specially trained and come from the Guide Dog bloodline. But they do not come cheap.
The other part to being accepted into the program is a substantial fundraising effort to help with the costs for training the dog. For the family the target was $8000 just for Walter, however these special companions cost over $25,000 to raise and train.
The families are required to contribute to the cost of the dog via fundraising efforts, which is why a lot of families look to their community for help as there is no government funding.
Mrs Younger said she wanted to thank the Deniliquin community for its help and support.
The Youngers now live in Melbourne, however Jeremy was raised in Deniliquin before joining the Navy after high school and some of the fundraising for their new companion was held locally.
‘‘We ended up raising our target of $8,000. It’s a lot of money to come up with and we definitely could not have done it without the great generosity of others,’’ Mrs Younger said.
‘‘Having the means to get Walter has meant so much to us. All we can say is thank you to everyone that created awareness and attention to our story.
‘‘We also want to say a big thank you to our friends and family and everyone who donated.’’