Thursday, 21 January 2016

Smart Pups receive Newman’s Own grant

Smart Pups Assistance Dogs

Smart Pups Assistance Dogs is a dedicated not-for-profit organisation based on the Sunshine Coast, QLD Australia that focuses on improving the quality of life for young people with Autism and Seizure related syndromes, and their families through training their dogs in ‘task specific’ skills. a grant from Newman's Own Foundation will be used to purchase, raise and train two Medical Alert Assistance Dogs which will be certified for full public access.

Smart Pups Assistance Dogs - Nominated person - Patricia McAlister

Patricia is the Director of Smart Pups Assistance Dogs, which she founded after a friend asked her to train an assistance dog for her mobility-restricted child. Patricia began her Smart Pups journey with an internship at ‘4 Paws for Ability’ in America and on her return established Smart Pups as a not-for-profit venture in dog-assisted early intervention. 

She continually empowers those around her through trust and action and her willingness to get her hands dirty alongside them. Patricia also initiated and continues the push for legislative amendments to Queensland’s Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dog Act 2009 to ensure existing barriers around access to public places do not disadvantage special needs children, their Smart Pup or their families.

Newman’s Own Foundation

The foundation, set up by renowned actor Paul Newman, said charities were invited to nominate individuals from within their organisations whose work had empowered others to overcome extraordinarily adverse circumstances, or provided equal access to human rights and contributed to the development of a civil society.

Newman’s Own Foundation turns all net profits and royalties from the sale of Paul Newman’s Own products into charitable donations. To-date, Newman’s Own Foundation have given nearly US$450mil to thousands of charities around the world including US$20mil to Australian charities.

In 2015, 23 Australians charity workers, in fields as diverse as children’s cancer, homelessness, disability and animal welfare, shared in grants worth over A$1mil from Newman's Own Foundation.

Bella the Medical Alert & Psychiatric Service Dog

When most people see this photo of Bella and her human, Valerie Parrott, they break out into a smile and utter an 'aaw!!'. But the meaning of this photo runs much deeper than Valerie & Bella sharing a sweet moment on Valerie’s wedding day.

Bella is a medical alert and psychiatric service dog. She’s performing an incredibly important task in this photo - a task that would help Valerie enjoy one of the most special days of her life. Valerie says:

“Right before the photo was taken she had alerted me to my increasing anxiety and was trying to calm me down and was performing a grounding task. Basically it helps me to take a moment away from whatever is causing the anxiety and keep me from having a panic attack.”

That stunning photo of a bride with her best friend captures the beauty of a service dog team - the beauty of what it’s like to put your life in the paws of a pup, knowing that your dog will do everything she can to keep you safe.

Bella played a crucial role in Valerie’s wedding to Andrew Parrott. Valerie and Andrew have been dating for two years, which is also the same amount of time that Bella has been in Valerie’s life. Consequently, Bella and her dad share an incredible bond. Valerie says:

"It’s actually a funny story because as we were driving to the Sioux Falls falls where we got engaged, Andrew was so nervous that Bella kept alerting me to his rising anxiety. She’d never alerted to him before so I thought she was alerting to me and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Ha!"

The 3 ½yr old Yellow Lab walked down the aisle with Valerie and her father, Kurt Menning. Valerie’s wedding photos have gone viral and landed the service dog team on the front page of Reddit. While this newfound fame is a bit overwhelming, Valerie says that it’s the perfect opportunity to educate people about service dogs.

There’s a lot of confusion about service dogs. People think they are only for the blind or visibly disabled. However, people with invisible disabilities, like anxiety and other psychiatric illnesses, sometimes need service dogs. There are also service dogs for dozens of other invisible illnesses. In fact, one of Bella’s tasks is alerting Valerie to severe migraines. Additionally, Valerie says that Bella:

"…Helps with side effects from medication (like passing out). she is also response trained for when these events happen. A response task can be anything like getting help, getting me to a safe place and sitting or lying down. Those are just a few tasks she does."

On her blog, Valerie talks about one of the things that she really wants people to understand about service dogs:

"So many people don’t know that service dogs can be used for so many invisible illnesses. The other thing is a lot of people look at a service dog team and forget that it is because of that partnership, that both dog and handler can not only survive life, they can thrive at it."

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