In your experience, how can interacting with a dog benefit people we support?

Dogs don’t see a person with a complex life or a disability they just see someone to love, someone they want to ‘show off for’, someone they want to please.

Sometimes the more complex the person, the more you see the dogs change. They modify their behaviour, they may become quiet or they may act sillier. They often push themselves into the person's space and get gently in their faces, if someone is crying they will lick away the tears.

My dog Tiny did this to someone that we support at one of our events. I think that everyone that was in the room at the time had tears in their eyes, as the person we support finally stopped crying and just buried their face in Tiny’s coat; holding on to her for comfort. They had been very stressed and she provided the outlet needed.

How did you begin training Pip, Jess's dog and what has the journey been like so far?

I have trained a number of dogs as assistance dogs for adults and children with autism, so Jo Jess’s mum first approached me a year ago looking for my thoughts on Jess getting a dog.

I completed several risk assessments with Jess and family, one of which was, did she pass the 'Tiny test'?

Jess had to handle and get to know my dog Tiny and by watching Tiny’s body language I can assess how comfortable she is with a person, I wouldn’t take on anyone that Tiny isn’t comfortable with having round her. Tiny loves Jess, so we moved forward.

Eventually, we found a pup for Jess. The pup had to have the right attitude to work with Jess.

Pip was the last pup I saw and she was so calm and accepted all the testing like a pro.

I spoke to Jo and with her agreement I bought Pip. Pip came to me when she was just under eight weeks old, and spent the first six weeks with us going around in my son's old school bag (she couldn’t go down on the floor until her vaccinations had been done), but that didn’t mean she couldn’t see the world.

So far, Pip takes everything in her stride. Life is wonderful in her world!

What was Jess’ response to Pip?

When I asked Jess what Pip would mean to her, she replied that she is something for her to love. We try and get in video calls a good few nights a week so that Jess can see Pip at home.

What’s your favourite thing about training dogs?

When you’re trying to teach a dog something and they don’t get it, all of a sudden you see their eyes light up as the penny drops and they suddenly get it!