Isaac Gray and Lady the labrador eye each other carefully as they meet each other for the first time.

Unknown to each other at that moment, they are destined to be best mates.

Isaac, at first apprehensive of his new friend, approaches carefully.

Slowly he gets up the courage to pat Lady gently on the head.


Lady is being trained as an assistance dog for Isaac, a bubbly 7-year-old, who suffered from a lack of oxygen at birth leaving him with cerebral palsy and global developmental delay.

"In all areas, he is delayed. How much that will progress we are not sure. We were told at birth he wouldn't be doing any of this. But we have put a lot of effort into him and he keeps progressing," Isaac's mum, Shelley, said.

Isaac cannot get around without the help of a walker, his wheelchair or another person. He is non-verbal and until about a year a go, could not hear.

"His speech is starting to come, words, babbles. Before he lived in a world of, we don't know because he couldn't tell us."

Particularly in the past year, he had progressed well. Isaac now goes to the Montessori school based at Arataki Primary School four days a week. Although Isaac is the only student with disabilities in his class, his peers love him and he loves them. He is a very social child.

He also goes to Riding for the Disabled and loves animals.

Shelley first found out about Assistant Dogs New Zealand Trust about two years ago.

Growing up on a farm and already knowing her son had a passion for animals, she applied for an assistance dog for her son.

"We knew as a family what dogs and animals could do.

"With Isaac being non-verbal, he really gets animals. That's why Lady will be really important for him as a friend and companion. He doesn't have friends like other 7-year-olds. So having this constant little buddy will be really important as he grows."

Lady the silver lab, soon to be a new member of the family. Photo/Ruth Keber
Lady the silver lab, soon to be a new member of the family. Photo/Ruth Keber

They have been on the waiting list for about 18 months and expect to officially get Lady just before Christmas.

Lady will help with his confidence and motivation to engage in activities outside of his comfort zone and also provide some physical assistance to Isaac, she said.

"Lady will help Isaac in the use of his wheelchair if he gets stuck and she will help him get in and out of his chair. We also hope Isaac will learn to walk unaided with Lady walking slowly by his side."

Shelley said having Lady around meant increased security for Isaac too.

"Isaac needs constant supervision during the day and night. We hope Lady will alert us if Isaac is in danger. We also hope she may give Isaac the comfort he needs at night to enjoy a more restful night's sleep for us all."

Lady would also be a positive point of interaction with strangers.

"The focus shifts will shift from a "different" child in a wheelchair to seeing a beautiful dog obviously working to help a child with different abilities."

Isaac Gray with his soon to be assistance dog, Lady the silver lab. Photo/Ruth Keber
Isaac Gray with his soon to be assistance dog, Lady the silver lab. Photo/Ruth Keber

Assistance Dogs New Zealand Trust funding development manager Wendy Isaacs said a dog like Lady was great for a family like Isaac's for many reasons.

Lady would bring out new emotions in Isaac, she said.

"There is a connection that happens between them that we don't fully understand."

Lady also would be a touch of independence for Isaac, she said.

"Isaac will use the dog to become more mobile. Plus he will learn to communicate better with those around him. His confidence will grow. Isaac will also emotionally connect with Lady because she would never judge him.

"That is the biggest thing with kids, she never judges him. She will be gentle with him and be there no matter what mood he is in. She will become his best friend."

Shelley and Isaac want to do their part for Assistance Dogs, please donate here through their Givealittle page: