Assistance dog Chase has changed the lives of Hamilton teen Hannah and her family, allowing Hannah to undertake simple tasks most people would take for granted and providing her with companionship and support.
After seeing assistance dogs out and about in the Hamilton community, as Waikato is the training ground for 80 per cent of the puppies and where the charity was founded, Hannah's mum Donna looked into it further and met with the charity who helped them apply.
The Assistance Dogs team listened to their situation to understand Hannah's specific needs, so they knew Chase would be perfectly-suited for her.
They also helped with guidance around the fundraising effort each recipient makes, with the local community and Hannah's dad Mark's work getting in behind them to raise funds.
Six years on, Hannah calls Chase her best friend, and he is always at her side, attending many hospital appointments and stays over the years to help her cope with the stress of those situations.
He also helps her through any respiratory distress, acting as a calm and relaxed presence.
At home, as Hannah has low muscle strength she often drops objects like pencils or books and can't retrieve them herself, Chase knows to pick them up for her.
Having Chase has also encouraged Hannah outside to go walking, as he trots alongside her.
Donna says you can't put a dollar value on the special bond between Hannah and Chase, and it's made a real difference to the whole family, and coping with the challenges that come with Hannah's condition.
Assistance Dogs NZ Trust receive no government funding, and relies on donations and grants, and with their waiting list now over five years' long they are growing beyond their current capabilities. To donate click here. To be able to urgently give those with severe disabilities the chance to access an assistance dog, thus changing their lives, the organisation is running its appeal week this month, calling for any donations, including online.
The goal is to raise $75,000, the cost of breeding, training and placing one assistance dog with one of the many worthy recipients.
Those with severe disabilities are waiting five or more years for access to an assistance dog, with 47 children and families on the waiting list.
While the trust offers support for any disability, they found that in particular there was nowhere for people with disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder, down syndrome and cerebral palsy to access a public access dog and 90 per cent of clients are children on the autism spectrum.
Assistance dogs help children remain calm and accepting of change in new environments like the school classroom, hospital, shopping mall and anywhere out in public.
For families, they can be the difference between becoming house-bound and living active lives as a family.
The five year plus waiting list comes down to a lack of resource; the trust doesn't receive any government funding, and is funded solely by donations, grants and individual donors.
ADNZT's puppies are raised by volunteer puppy raisers in Hamilton, Auckland and Tauranga from eight weeks to 14 months or until the puppy is ready for formal training.