A disabled five-year-old is looking forward to an extra special first proper Christmas with his buddy dog.
Nicole Dodd-Moore’s son JJ is severely disabled, immobile and non-verbal.
The five-year-old didn’t like strangers in the house and struggled to go outside or to school before German Shepherd Buddy arrived at the family’s Northumberland home a year ago.
Buddy was given a career change to be a buddy dog after charity Guide Dogs realised he wasn’t cut out for life as a guide dog. The charity often pairs the dogs with children with sight loss.
“When Buddy finally walked through the door, it was as if a light had switched on in JJ. His face lit up with joy,” Nicole, 30, said.
“JJ was just mesmerised by Buddy completely and he was laughing and giggling whenever Buddy would walk past him.
“Before we had Buddy, he didn’t like anyone in the house that was a stranger.
“He struggled to go outside and to school because he didn’t like socialising and meeting new people.
“Now because Buddy’s here, JJ does not mind anyone coming in the house anymore and because Buddy comes to school with us, he’s absolutely fine and has settled in absolutely brilliantly.”
The family, including Nicole’s partner Jon, 35, and daughters Scarlett, nine, and Mia, seven - were unsure if JJ’s reaction was because Buddy is black and, because JJ is partially sighted, “he can see things that are black and white”.
The youngster is “excited” to spend his first proper Christmas with the Alsatian after the family “didn’t celebrate” Christmas “like we are this year”.
Nicole said this year’s first proper Christmas with Buddy will be a “quiet” one, with the German shepherd set to be the star of the day as he has been booked in to a Secret Santa.
She added: “I think we went a bit OTT there.
“I saw it on Facebook because we’re on a German shepherd walking group and the people that organise it do day trips for the dogs so they can see Santa and have a little Christmas dinner.”
She said those thinking about getting a buddy dog for their child should “100% go for it” but also remember that “a dog is not just for Christmas”.
“The Guide Dog staff are absolutely lovely and they would do anything for you,” she said.
“We got Buddy around the Christmas period and it is true what they say – he’s not just a pet, he’s a friend for life.”
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Guide Dogs is the UK’s largest charitable supplier of services to children and young people with sight loss.
As well as buddy dogs, funds donated to Guide Dogs will help the charity provide a range of services that help equip children with the skills they need to live an independent and active life.
More information about buddy dogs can be found on the Guide Dogs website.