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Disabled five-year-old ‘excited’ to spend first proper Christmas with buddy dog

JJ with Buddy (Owen Humphreys/PA)
JJ with Buddy (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The mother of a severely disabled child whose face “lit up with joy” when he got a buddy dog says the youngster is “excited” to spend his first proper Christmas with the pet.

Nicole Dodd-Moore’s five-year-old son JJ is severely disabled, immobile and non-verbal.

Around the end of November/beginning of December 2022, she and her family – which also includes her partner Jon, 35, and daughters Scarlett, nine, and Mia, seven – welcomed German shepherd Buddy, through Guide Dogs’ buddy dog service.

Family posing together
The Dodd-Moore family from Northumberland will celebrate their first proper Christmas with their buddy dog called Buddy (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Buddy dogs are dogs that have been given a career change because they did not suit being a guide dog, and are typically partnered with a child with sight loss.

Ms Dodd-Moore said that when Buddy first entered the family home in Northumberland, JJ’s face “lit up with joy”.

“Before we had Buddy, he didn’t like anyone in the house that was a stranger,” the 30-year-old told the PA news agency.

“He struggled to go outside and to school because he didn’t like socialising and meeting new people.

Woman, boy in wheelchair and dog posing together
Ms Dodd-Moore said when Buddy first entered the family home in Northumberland, JJ’s face ‘lit up with joy’ (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“When Buddy finally walked through the door, it was as if a light had switched on in JJ. His face lit up with joy.

“JJ was just mesmerised by Buddy completely and he was laughing and giggling whenever Buddy would walk past him.”

Ms Dodd-Moore said she was unsure if JJ’s reaction was because Buddy is black and, because JJ is partially sighted, “he can see things that are black and white”.

She said Buddy has also transformed her son into someone more open to socialising.

“Now ’cause Buddy’s in the house, JJ does not mind anyone coming in the house anymore and because Buddy comes to school with us, he’s absolutely fine and has settled in absolutely brilliantly,” she said.

Family posing
The family has a few festive plans to treat Buddy (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Ms Dodd-Moore said that in 2022 the family “didn’t celebrate” Christmas “like we are this year”.

She said this year’s first proper Christmas with Buddy will be a “quiet” one, with the German shepherd set to be the star of the day as he has been booked in to a Secret Santa.

She added: “I think we went a bit OTT there.

“I saw it on Facebook because we’re on a German shepherd walking group and the people that organise it do day trips for the dogs so they can see Santa and have a little Christmas dinner.

“The kids are really excited about that.

Boy and dog together
Ms Dodd-Moore said Buddy has helped JJ become more comfortable around strangers (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“The kids have been saving up some of their pocket money to buy treats and toys, like doggie cakes so he can smell them when he opens the wrapping paper.”

She said those thinking about getting a buddy dog for their child should “100% go for it” but also remember that “a dog is not just for Christmas”.

“The Guide Dog staff are absolutely lovely and they would do anything for you,” she said.

“We got Buddy around the Christmas period and it is true what they say – he’s not just a pet, he’s a friend for life.”

Guide Dogs is the UK’s largest charitable supplier of services to children and young people with sight loss.

As well as buddy dogs, funds donated to Guide Dogs will help the charity provide a range of services that help equip children with the skills they need to live an independent and active life.

More information about buddy dogs can be found here: https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/getting-support/help-for-children-and-families/buddy-dogs-for-children/