Kat lives with a range of disabilities and chronic illnesses including Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, Hypermobility, POTS, FND, and experiences seizure-like episodes that can last up to four hours.
She discovered Assistance Dogs New Zealand Trust in 2017 after years of struggling to find anything that would help her. Kat joined our waitlist that year, but it wasn’t until May 2022 that her “partner-in-crime” finally came along – Assistance Dog Jojo, changing her life in an instant.
Since the pair graduated, Jojo helps Kat to feel less overwhelmed by her multiple disabilities and conditions, and less overwhelmed by the world in general.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better dog and best friend - Jojo is matched perfectly to my needs, energy and lifestyle. Her training shines through every day”.
Jojo has been tailor-trained to provide support to meet Kat’s needs. She provides a calming technique called ‘deep pressure’ to help regulate Kat’s heartrate and blood pressure when she’s having a panic attack, meltdown or POTS flare.
Jojo also applies light pressure when Kat is experiencing a seizure-like episode, to help ease pain with Jojo’s body heat and to help prevent Kat from accidently hurting herself.
Jojo has also given Kat the confidence to live life in a way she wasn’t able to before.
Together, they’ve travelled on the bus for the first time, had trips out by themselves or with friends, visited the zoo, the movies, and live shows.
Kat has experienced her first road trip with friends, started dating for the first time and is has even begun enjoying the simple things in life – like walking to the dairy by herself (and with Jojo) for an ice cream.
“Every single new experience I’ve had, goal I’ve achieved and scary thing I’ve managed to do, are because of her”.
With Jojo by her side, Kat’s felt herself grow as a person, and has loved watching Jojo grow too. They’ve learnt a lot about each other, and their relationship continues to go from strength to strength.
Kat has loved learning about Jojo’s personality and funny quirks. She loves watching her go from “very serious, professional and focused” when working, to the “wiggliest, silliest goose in the pond” when it’s time to play.
“She just makes me so incredibly happy and her joy and excitement for life in general is infectious”.
Over the next couple of years, Kat hopes Jojo will continue to help her gain independence and a sense of freedom. Kat hopes they’ll be able to move out of home together, participate in the community more, begin some form of work or volunteering and continue to make new friends.
Something she’s looking forward to the most is making memories and living a life without fear, instead of just ‘surviving’. She’s also looking forward to a future with less injuries and health-flares because of the support Jojo provides.
Kat and assistance dog Jojo.
Support ADNZT’s Annual Appeal 2023:
Kat says making a donation to ADNZT is “as powerful and life-changing as donating blood, an organ, or helping someone get a wheelchair or the medicine they need – except it’s even better, because it has a wet nose and a waggy tail!”
There are 50+ New Zealanders waiting patiently to be matched with their Assistance Dog. As an organisation, we’re desperately focusing on increasing our output of dogs so we can help those families, and resume taking applications from those who may benefit from our services.
This September, we need to raise $75,000. Please consider making a one-off donation today so families like Kat’s can gain access to the life-changing support they deserve. Thank you.
To make a donation, please visit: https://www.assistancedogstrust.org.nz/make-a-donation
Become a life-changing Puppy Raiser
To continue raising and training dogs for those on our waitlist, we desperately need individuals in the Bay of Plenty region to open their homes to a puppy in development.
Puppies stay with their Puppy Raiser until they are about 14-18 months of age, then return to Assistance Dogs to be formally trained for a New Zealander with a disability. ADNZT covers the cost of feeding and vet care, and there is a supervisor available throughout to support you.
To become a puppy-raiser, you must:
- Have a fully fenced and secure property
- Have time to spend socialising and exercising your pup
- Be available to meet for puppy development training
To learn more or apply, please visit: https://www.assistancedogstrust.org.nz/puppy-development