Assistance dog being trained to carry Frankie's oxygen tanks

By Ashleigh Collis -
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Mali the assistance dog with Frankie Watson. Photo / Ashleigh Collis
Mali the assistance dog with Frankie Watson. Photo / Ashleigh Collis

Man's best friend could give a Levin youngster with a rare lung disease a new lease on life.

Assistance dog Mali has been hanging out with two-year-old Frankie Watson in hopes that the Kiwi Pride Australian Labradoodle will soon be carrying Frankie's oxygen cylinders.

It's been a pioneering journey to get this far for Frankie's family.

Frankie Watson's rare lung condition means he must be hooked up to oxygen 24/7.

Knowing this would set him apart from other kids and present mobility issues, his parents have spent the last two years pursuing the possibility of an assistance dog to carry oxygen cylinders for their two-year-old son.

It became a pioneering journey for the Watson family as there had never been a dog trained in New Zealand to carry oxygen cylinders, and now Mali has entered their lives.

The Kiwi Pride Australian Labradoodle has received 10 months of his 18-month training period, and took a break to hang out with the family he will soon join.

Frankie's father, Ryan Watson said Mali had slotted into the family like he had always been there.

"We have taken him out in public a few times and he has been really well behaved," he said "The training he has received so far has been outstanding."

Ryan said watching Frankie and Mali interact had been really special to see.

"They have bonded so naturally ... having Mali visit has reassured us that we made the right decision."

Securing an assistance dog has meant the family having to raise $20,000 for the cost of Mali's training.

"[His] training is important in this quest to help Frankie grow up as normal as he can be - running, playing outside, enjoying the life we take for granted," said Ryan.

Frankie's mother, Nadia said when she held her newborn son in her arms she felt powerless to help him. He has interstitial lung disease, a rare condition and the only New Zealand child to have it.

"When we started the process of getting an assistance dog for Frankie, it was nice to have hope that there was something I could have control over to make things better for him."

The Watsons have raised almost half of the training cost through a Givealittle page. To help, go to givealittle.co.nz/cause/frankiewatson

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