Abbie a helping paw for Clodagh

ABBIE isn’t just a dog to 11-year-old Clodagh Mangan; she’s like the sister she doesn’t have.

Clodagh from Ballymacelligott near Tralee, Co Kerry, has had her life transformed since the golden retriever came into her life two and a half years ago. However it’s only in the last few months that Abbie has been trained as an assistance dog, making Clodagh the first wheelchair-user child in the country to have such a dog.

Abbie graduated from training with Irish Dogs for the Disabled at the Nano Nagle Centre in Mallow yesterday and she is now able to turn on or off lights for Clodagh and send messages to Clodagh’s mother. It’s all part of the charity’s aim of giving greater independence to disabled people.

She also goes to the shop with her owner and will accompany her if she is travelling to a nearby friend’s house.

Abbie has also been trained to help Clodagh if she’s in danger. Clodagh says that if she fell in her chair, she can order Abbie to “speak” and the dog will bark incessantly until an adult responds.

Even Clodagh admits that Abbie has given her “a lot more confidence”.

“She’s very good. She’s my friend. She makes me feel safe. For instance, if my mum goes into the shop and I stay in the car, I’m happy to sit there with Abbie,” she said.

Clodagh’s mum, Siobháin, said the biggest benefit for her daughter has been the companionship that Abbie offers.

“She is really like her friend. Clodagh is an only child, so she’s the sister she never had. If she’s down in her bedroom with her friends, they will always want Abbie there,” she said. “She is much happier with Abbie. Take for instance when you’re out and people see a child in a wheelchair, they tend to stare. Not anymore, they will smile and admire Clodagh and Abbie.”

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