WHILE a new member of the family might be sometimes viewed with a little suspicion by the family unit, when the newbie is intelligent, loyal, trainable, active, instinctual, and has stylish looks to boot, then a welcome is definitely on the mat.
Maisie, a beautiful Standard Poodle, came into the Geary/O’Connor’s lives almost a year ago. She was paired with Louie, aged nine, by Dogs for the Disabled and she will be going into formal training shortly to become Louie’s Stability Dog.
Is Maisie Louie’s best friend?
“We all love Maisie,” says Louie’s mum, Marisa Geary.
“She settled in very well and she has made a marked difference to Louie, giving him more independence and more confidence.”
Louie feels more grown up.
“Instead of holding onto my hand when we are out and about, Louie lets go of my hand and he is guided by Maisie.”
Louie has a rare syndrome called Kabuli Syndrome. As a result, he has some physical disabilities and a visual impairment.
“Louie has had physical issues since he was a small baby,” says Marisa.
She and Terry also have an older son, Ríain, aged 12.
“Louie had open heart surgery at just four days old in Crumlin. Cardiac-wise he is doing great,” says Marisa.
“A year ago he was diagnosed with Kabuli Syndrome, which resulted in severe difficulties involving his fine motor skills.
“Louie has low muscle tone, joint hyper mobility, which affects his upper limbs and his lower limbs,” say Marisa.
He benefits from physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
Now his new companion, Maisie, is helping Louie to take steps to be more independent and more confident.
“Eighteen months ago, we discovered Louie has significant visual impairment,” says Marisa. “He doesn’t have 3D vision so he hasn’t any perception of steps for example. He can’t judge them to put one step in front of the other.
“In unfamiliar areas on uneven surfaces, Louie doesn’t see obstacles and falls flat. He can’t save himself because of the weakness in his arms.”
But now that everyone is striding out with Maisie in tow, tiny steps are leading to bigger steps.
“With a stability dog, Louie is able to walk independently with us safely.”
Family outings are more fun with Maisie along too.
“Louie was prone to anxiety and melt-downs,” says Marisa.
Maisie, with her instinct and smart sense, can intervene to avoid anxiety and melt-downs, providing stability when walking, opening the door to greater independence.
“Maisie has made a huge difference,” says Marisa.
“Jennifer, CEO of Dogs for the Disabled matched Maisie with Louie. There was an instant bond between the two and the dog works very well with Louie. She has a beautiful temperament and she is very gentle.”
While she is responsible, she is also sociable and playful.
“Maisie loves playing in the garden.”
She went on holidays with the family too.
“We have a mobile home in West Cork and Maisie came down with us earlier in the year,” says Marisa.
“She had a great time running along the beach with us.
“Before we rang Dogs for the Disabled, inquiring about a therapy dog, Louie was learning to use a walking cane. When we got Maisie the timing was just right. She is a great addition to the family.”
The whole family has embraced the precious pooch, who has a lovely temperament, a good sense of responsibility, and who is socialising well until undergoing specific training for Louie.
Other members of the family are currently in training too — for their own challenge.
“Myself and my son, Ríain, have decided to challenge ourselves to make some money for Dogs for the Disabled to help them with their great work,” says Marisa, who is working from home in Rochestown due to the pandemic.
The enthusiastic duo are ambitious.
“We plan to complete the equivalent of seven marathons between us in seven weeks!”
That really is ambitious, considering Marisa is asthmatic and wouldn’t rate herself as very fit?
“Well, even though I’m allergic to dog hair I’ve had no reaction to Maisie! Luckily she doesn’t shed.”
Did Marisa shed her reservations about completing the equivalent of seven marathons in seven weeks for Dogs for the Disabled?
“I’m not one for running! I’m very unfit,” says Marisa, laughing. “I wouldn’t have great stamina.”
But one thing led to another.
“I bought a treadmill due to a bad back,” says Marisa.
“Often, being in the one spot all day in front of the computer, I suffered from neck and shoulder pain. So I decided to try and do something to try and get fit.
“So when Ríain and I decided to do the fundraiser for Dogs for the Disabled; I started building up the mileage on the treadmill.
“Ríain and I challenge ourselves to go further every week.”
Ríain has the advantage.
“He’s fit! He plays rugby!” said Marisa.
The family live in lovely surroundings ideal for walking and running.
“We live near the Old Court Wood,” says Marisa.
“So it is nice to run or walk there too, occasionally.
“Usually I do a 3km walk and a 3km run. So I’ve really pushed the boat out!
“Family and friends have been amazing with their support, we can’t believe the positive response.
“We’re already past the €3,000 mark. All the messages of well-wishes motivate me to put one foot in front of the other,” says Marisa. “That’s my mantra.”
Ríain roped his friends in at school too.
“He comes in from school and he says; ‘we did 5km today, mum!’ He is committed and very excited about the fundraiser. Dogs for the Disabled are under pressure like all charities due to Covid.”
Ríain and Louie are typical brothers.
“They have the normal brotherly rivalry but they are good buddies,” says Marisa.
Now the boys have another buddy.
“They both adore Maisie.”
“There is no charge for he,” adds Marisa.
“We are her guardians and we’ll retain ownership of her.”
Louie is delighted about the fundraiser for Maisie’s doggie pals.
“We haves a Whatsapp group with other parents of the pupils in his class,” says Marisa.
“Louie wants them to be updated about the fundraiser all the time. He is absolutely thrilled by it.”
And the dog who inspired this wonderful charitable gesture is happy too.
“Maisie is an indoor dog and her bed is indoors,” says Marisa.
“She is spoilt rotten!”
Nothing much fazes the happy hound-dog who has such special abilities.
“There was a thunderstorm during lockdown and she came into our bedroom!”
“We never had a dog before and Maisie has made such a difference.”
Running and getting fit has made a difference to Marisa.
“I thought running wasn’t for me,” she says. “But it is now! I never thought it was so much fun.
“At school, my P.E teacher at Ashton used to say to me; ‘you’re so light; why not run?’ Never say never!
To donate to the cause, see https://www.gofundme.com/f/7-marathons-in-7-weeks
MORE ABOUT THE CHARITY
Dogs for the Disabled is a unique charity founded in 2007 to improve the lives of children and adults living with physical disabilities in Ireland.
The service delivers 25 fully-trained assistance dogs each year to profoundly disabled partners, operating on a budget of €300,000 per year.
To contact the Cork branch, phone 021-4316627 or email:firstname.lastname@example.org