This Christmas, the Herald is again featuring charities which have been selected for a $10,000 donation from Auckland Airport. The $120,000 to be distributed came from change donated by travellers this year

Man's best friend has long been a solid companion for many people around the world. But one Kiwi charity is working hard to raise special pups that will act not only as a companion but, in some cases, a lifesaver for dozens of New Zealanders with disabilities.

Assistance Dogs NZ, based in Te Awamutu, will receive $10,000 as part of the Auckland Airport 12 Days of Christmas giveaway this year.

The money will go towards raising and training a pup that will one day be paired with a child or adult with a disability.

Dog trainer Julie Hancox, who founded the trust in 2008, has successfully trained several dogs which are now working with child clients.


"Our big difference is that we aren't specific in the type of disability our dogs are trained to help.

"They can help a person with autism, assist with alerting to diabetic lows and help people with severe anxiety or those with post-traumatic stress," Mrs Hancox said.

"The dog can be trained to nudge or distract or provide comfort by applying body pressure for support.

"So our main focus is on training the dog to meet an individual's specific needs."

Raising and training an assistance dog is expensive, with costs totalling $20,000 per pup.

Mrs Hancox said there was a long waiting list of people wanting an assistance dog, with a particular interest from parents.

"Many of our dogs have gone to children with autism. They are able to act as a companion to these children while also making sure they are safe," she said.

Auckland Airport general manager corporate affairs Charles Spillane said the charity was a worthy cause.

"When these pups are fully raised and trained, they will significantly enhance the lives of children and adults with disabilities, so we couldn't be happier to provide this donation," he said.