Meet Cal – the intelligent labrador puppy from Sheffield set for a successful future supporting youngsters with autism
Trainee support dog Cal had the very best start in life as a much-loved pet, but a change in his owner’s circumstances led to the promising pup starting a whole new life as an assistance dog.
Black Labrador Cal arrived at Sheffield-based charity Support Dogs at just five months old after his family were no longer able to look after him due to serious illness.
It was a massive wrench for the dog-loving family, but it was the right decision made for the benefit of Cal; an affectionate dog with an extremely friendly disposition.
Their loss was very much Support Dogs’ gain as Cal has gone from strength to strength in his training to become an assistance dog.
Like all the charity’s trainee dogs, Cal’s training was delayed because of Covid, and he spent 12 months living with his doggy foster carers near the charity’s Brightside base.
But according to his trainer Matt, who took over the youngster’s training at the end of the first lockdown when the pup was 18 months old, Cal always had what it took to be a successful assistance dog – despite his occasional exuberant ways.
“He’s always been a lovely dog, a bit OTT and bouncy and a bit cheeky, and sometimes quite challenging to train,” he says. “I used to let him run off lead in the park, and he’d disappear into the distance for ages.
“But from then to now – he’s like a different dog. He’s still giddy and mischievous at times, but he loves his training and his task work. He still loves a run - but now he comes back on his own accord.”
Because Cal is so intelligent and has such potential, he could have been considered for any of the charity’s programmes, but he is now a future autism assistance dog and will spend his working life helping to keep a youngster with autism safe, independent, and happy.
Support Dogs trains its autism assistance dogs to keep a child safe, using a wide range of methods such as reducing the risk of injury or distress for the child and reducing stress and anxiety for the child’s family.
“He will be a great autism assistance dog,” adds Matt. “He really bonds well with one person at a time and will give his youngster the confidence to go places and interact with people. Cal is everyone’s best friend – and that includes dogs and people! He’s a fun, happy dog and always looks like he is having the best time.”
Cal’s instructor Kate said: “He is an incredibly intelligent dog with a goofy side to his personality, which just makes him so loveable. He is an absolute joy to train and work with.”
Do you have a much-loved pet dog under the age of three that you can no longer look after, who you would like to donate to Support Dogs to give it a second chance in life? If so, please get in touch via [email protected]
For more information about Support Dogs visit www.supportdogs.org.uk.