Dog guide becomes miracle with paws for 8-year-old Sophia who has autism【CANADA/USA】

Dog headlines make the news every day. Out of every tragedy that sweeps Canada or the United States, out of the dust and the ashes is always a hero in wagging running to his beloved human. Even Barbara Walters has cracked at the sight of such a moment. But there are some heroes in the canine world that do not make the headlines often enough, but are rising out of the dust and the ashes of special needs every day. These dogs are working dogs. Dogs that are the soldiers of healing that attend to all age brackets in their time of special need. 

Many of us associate these dogs as helpers for the blind or the deaf, but the true dog guide hero is one that goes where it is needed, from the blind to the deaf, from the post-traumatic soldier to the autistic child. CBC News reported on May 29, the story of 8-year-old Sophia MacQuaid, and the story of her special friend, 4-year-old Sabreigh, Sophia’s Dog Guide from the Lions Foundation of Canada (LFC) Dog Guides of Canada.


Sabreigh is a 4-year-old golden labrador retriever who wags and pants whenever Sophia, who suffers from autism, says “Hug Sabreigh…hug” reported CBC News this week. Sophia’s mother Tammy told CBC, “We are so blessed to have this dog.”

It was four years ago when Sophia’s parents took the trip from their home in Hampton, P.E.I. to head to a deceptively small looking building in Oakville, Ont. Then 4-year-old Sophia and her parents were heading to the Dog Guides of Canada’s head office to meet Sabreigh and learn how to be her friend.

It was the Lions Foundation of Canada that arranged the introduction of Sophia to Sabreigh through a program they offer that provides Dog Guides to Canadians with disabilities. Sophia has autism, and her mother Tammy told CBC,

“Sophia tends to wander quite a bit, and that was why we decided to look for a possible Dog Guide to help her out. We feel so blessed to have this dog, just the whole process of working with the Lion’s Foundation. They never asked us for anything in return, and we were blessed to have this guide dog. She’s been a wonderful part of our family.”

But she has also become so much more than that to Sophia. One of the greatest challenges to those that struggle with autism is understanding social conventions, building relationships, and making friends.

Sabreigh’s job has been to serve as the primary relationship that bridges that gap for Sophia between her own conventions, and those in society.

Sabreigh comes to Sophia with a special harness and a handle that Sophia can use to hold so that she does not wander off. Sabreigh has learned Sophia’s energy and is able to help Sophia calm down when she is having a melt down. When Sophia melts down, Sabriegh sits next to Sophia and allows her to pet her and de-escalate the moment.

It might be a moment that only lasts 30 seconds, but parents that have children with those very special needs understand how long those 30 seconds can be if a Sabreigh moment is not always around. Tammy and Jason McQuaid are one of a few families on the island of PEI that have become the proud family members of a Dog Guide.

Tammy also told CBC, “It wasn’t an easy transition.” She said it took almost a year for the two to become friends and work together nicely because that is another one of Sophia’s needs. During that year, the relationship has strengthened and Tammy saw Sophia growing and flourishing because of it. Now the McQuaids can not imagine their life without this very special relationship in it.

“She’s so kind, and sweet and gentle and we can trust her 100% around Sophia and we’re fortunate to have her.”

Tammy McQuaid also told CBC that she recommends any family that needs the same special relationship in their life should contact the Lions Foundation of Canada. The foundation offers Dog Guides in 6 different categories serving those with disabilities in any age all over the country.

The Lion’s Foundation provides and trains the Dog Guides for Canadians with disabilities, at no cost to the applicant. The cost of qualifying and training one dog to become a friend to someone as special as Sophia is approximately $25,000 per dog according to Vikki Beswick, the District A-2 Lioness LFC Chair.

Vikki Beswick told The Toronto Relationships Examiner that to date, the Lion’s Foundation of Canada (LFC) helps approximately 150 families a year. She also told the Toronto Relationships Examiner that this weekend will mark the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Dog Guides program that the Lion’s Foundation offers.

On June 1, all paws will be hitting the ground running in Niagara Falls when dogs and their humans join forces with the LFC and the Dog Guides of Canada for the annual Purina Walk for Dog Guides. Vikki said, "The Purina Walk for Dog is a great annual event because not only do those walks raise funds for Canadians that need them, but they bring the LFC into the community and thus raise awareness."


The Purina Walk for Dog Guides is a national fundraising walk that is held in 200 communities world wide. Participation does not need to be held at an actual walk, and donations can be submitted online. The walk is to raise funds to provide and train the many Dog Guides of Canada that are put into service every year. To date, the national Walk has raised over $10 million.

This year’s walk will occur in Niagara Falls, Ont., at Fireman’s Park on June 1. Registration begins at 9 a.m. ET and the walk with the dogs will begin at 10 a.m. ET. Vikki has been organizing the Niagara Falls Walk for over 5 years now and has raised almost $20,000 through the Niagara Falls branch alone. The slideshow here shows the history of some of the past Purina Walk for Dog events in Niagara Falls, Ont.


Walkers or supporters can register for the Niagara Falls Purina Walk for Dogs directly on the website. A look inside the training facilities of the Dog Guides of Canada in Oakville, Ontario location can be seen at the Dog Guides of Canada website and in the slideshow here.


【News Source:2014.5.31