How a dog on death row became little girl's hero
A HEART-WARMING partnership has saved the life of one, and greatly enhanced another's.
When six-year-old Erin Turner was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, including a primary diagnosis of Cohen Syndrome, her mother Julie wanted to do everything in her power to ensure her daughter had a fruitful life.
With Erin also diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, Mrs Turner decided to register for an assistance dog with the Compass Institute.
Fast-forward a number of months on the waiting list and after four weeks of hands-on training, Mrs Turner and her daughter have welcomed assistance dog Amore, an Irish Wolfhound Cross, into their home full-time.
It's only early days, but Mrs Turner said Amore had already made a huge impact on Erin's life.
"It's fantastic and he's made a big difference across the whole household," she said.
In particular, the Buderim mother said Erin's confidence in public spaces had improved greatly.
"(Having Amore) just helps other members of the public be more understanding too," she said.
"They look at the whole situation and think 'Ok, maybe that's why I'm seeing a behaviour difference."
She said other children had also started acknowledging Erin because of Amore, when in the past they had ignored her greetings.
"I felt that's really beneficial to her because I think she feels quite unheard when she goes around meeting and greeting the world," Mrs Turner said.
While it's enhanced Erin's life, the new relationship has saved Amore's.
Compass Institute assistance dogs operations manager Phil Brocklehurst said Amore was a rescue dog which had been adopted from the Sunshine Coast Animal Rescue Shelter (SCARS).
Unlike other organisations, Mr Brocklehurst said the Compass Institute committed to at least 25 percent of their trained assistance dogs to be sourced and adopted from rescue pounds.
Struggling families don't have to fork-out for the hefty price-tag either Mr Brocklehurst said, with public and corporate funding sourced for some training costs.
"I find using the rescue dogs, on a personal level, really satisfying and we've got a dog that's effectively on death row and we put it out as an assistance dog for a child," he said.
"It's not only good for him, but other dogs as well because it's showing the public that these are not broken dogs, they can fulfil a worthwhile job.
"If that doesn't melt your heart you haven't got a heart."
Amore is the second rescue dog to be placed with a family, but the first to call the Sunshine Coast home.
Not only was he rescued and placed locally, but his training was also funded by the Sunshine Coast Pet Resort.
Mrs Turner said having a rescue dog was a win-win situation.
"It's an unexpected outcome and it'd be nice to see that more often," she said.
"There are so many dogs that have that potential who are just in the wrong place at the wrong time and they get a second chance to do something that's so valuable."