Assistance dog 'worth her weight in gold'

  • 15/02/2016
Leo and Tiffany with Caz (Supplied)
Leo and Tiffany with Caz (Supplied)

Adopting a dog is a decision not to be made lightly, and for one young family it was no different, but doing so may be their best move yet.

Dr Gretchen Good, a Massey University lecturer, and her husband Dan Nash adopted a baby called Leo in 2008 and in 2011, also adopted their daughter Tiffany, both of whom have Down syndrome and other related heath complications.

Leo, now seven, is vision-impaired, and doesn't speak, while both he and four-year-old Tiffany share orthopaedic problems.

Dr Good and Mr Nash began looking into getting an assistance dog, and after careful consideration welcomed Caz, a three-year-old black Labrador, into their family.

She was specifically trained to help the family through Assistance Dogs New Zealand.

"We thought long and hard about the pros and cons of adding a canine family member to our lives. We know at times it can be hard work, but we believe she will add to our quality of life," Dr Good said.

Dr Good used to be blind, but after 23 operations, has regained her sight.

She says being blind was not a barrier for her, but doesn't want her children's disabilities to be a barrier for them.

"Caz is worth her weight in gold. She has made it easier to stop the kids from running off, especially in dangerous places like car parks. She has improved their exercise levels and helped with Leo's chronic stomach troubles. Walking more has improved both kids' sleep, which in turn improves our sleep."

And while Caz has helped immensely with the children's disabilities, Dr Good says "she also provides love, affection, acceptance and companionship. She can be a social magnet, attracting other children and promoting positive relationships. Leo and Tiff are different and sometimes other children and adults see those differences as negative or something to be afraid of. Now they have a best friend in their dog and may get more friends because of Caz."

Assistance dog 'worth her weight in gold'


The waiting list for an assistance dog is around two years, and families are asked to help raise money towards the cost. "Each family raises money, which then goes towards their own dog's completion of training and the start of training for another dog for the next family in need. It really is very much a 'pay it forward' system, founder of Assistance Dogs New Zealand Julie Hancox says.

Dr Good's family have raised just over $8000 via Givealittle but are aiming for $20,000 to help another family in a similar situation out.