Sara Ainsworth has struggled with mental health problems over the past five years which have left her with next to no independence.
But Sara, from Hastings, has a lifeline in the form of Storm, who has been acting as a therapy dog who has been helping her get out on her own, use buses, and meet up with a friend in a coffee shop.
The problem is that therapy dogs, unlike guide dogs for partially sighted people, have no official recognition.
Sara explained: “When I moved to Hastings I was really surprised at how supportive everyone has been, from small local shops and cafe’s to more mainstream places including Wetherspoons and Morrisons in allowing Storm into the shops to enable me to access them.
“Therapy dogs currently have no legal status within the UK, so its up to each indivisual place whether he’s accepted in or not.
However. Storm and I have recently been accepted by a charity called Recovery Dogs who are training, registering and insuring mental health support dogs within the UK.
I am so excited to have been accepted, as having him as a full assistance dog will make my life hugely more independent.
“Not only will he have more access to places, but he will also be trained specifically to support my individual needs, learning how to sense a panic attack and how to prevent it, how to ground me, lead me out of busy places amongst other benefits.
Sadly, as always the difficulty is financial. The charity ask you to fundraise, estimating the total cost at around £5,000. We have our induction on the May 24, and from there they will work with a local trainer in Hastings to support me.
Storm has a Facebook page where we post updates about his progress as a therapy dog, and also a gofundme page set up to start raising money. The charity has forms for sponsors to fill in, where they either give a one of donation or regular sponsorship towards a specific dog, and in turn get yearly updates, photo’s and letters.”
For more go to www.facebook.com/StormTherapyDog/ or visit the charity’s website www.recoveryassistancedogs.org.uk/sponsor-a-recovery-assistance-dog.
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