Pet dogs are easing the lives of Scots living with dementia but now the groundbreaking project has launched a fundraising campaign to secure its survival.
Jeanette King, is one of the first to have a Dementia Dog under the landmark pilot scheme which is currently facing a funding shortfall.
Jeanette and her husband Jon, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three years ago, say they can barely believe the positive effect on their lives since three-year-old Labrador, Lenny, joined them a year ago.
There are currently 12 specially-trained Dementia Dogs in Scotland and, as the project aims to raise £30,000 by the end of the month, Jeanette reflected on what Lenny has brought to the family since moving into their Aberdeen home.
“He has changed our lives,” she said. “Everyone who has one of the dogs feels passionate about wanting other people to have one.
“Getting Lenny is one of the best things I’ve done in my life.”
The assistance dogs are trained to retrieve pouches holding medicine, gently wake up owners from naps, and help remove items of clothing.
But, says Jeanette, the emotional and social impact is the biggest benefit.
“As long as Lenny is also part of our lives he makes Alzheimer’s that little less frightening,” she said.
“When you or your partner receive a diagnosis, it feels like your life is closing down, but Lenny has opened up a new world. Jon has suffered from depression for most of his life but Lenny provides a positive start to the day.
“We’re out every day with Lenny. That is a bonus as far as both health and socialising is concerned – we are forever stopping to talk to people.
“And I hope because we have Lenny it means Jon is less likely to need to go into a home or at least delay it.”
Jeanette and Jon met while students at Cambridge University. They moved north in 1969 and were lecturers at Aberdeen University, Jeanette in English and Jon in French.
“Jon can’t bear to be without Lenny now. He’s the one thing always guaranteed to make him smile.”
A collaboration between Alzheimer Scotland and Dogs For Good, the scheme received a three-year grant from the Life Changes Trust that ends on August 31.
Now Dementia Dogs is trying to raise £30,000 to ensure the scheme continues.
Fiona Corner, Dementia Dog’s project manager, said: “Dementia Dogs is achieving amazing outcomes for people living with dementia.
“We hope with public support we can continue to help change the lives of more families in Scotland through our special Dementia Dogs.”
The campaign runs until August 31. You can donate at dementiadog.org/inthepicture