A unique celebration took place in Marsa recently as a young Golden Retriever – Quincy – formally graduated as a fully-fledged Service Dog in the presence of her trainers and sponsors.
The graduation ceremony marked the end of an intensive 18-month training programme designed for Quincy to become an Autism Assistance Service Dog – that is, a dog that is specifically trained to support children who are on the autistic spectrum.
During the last phase of her training, Quincy was matched with Ben, a 10-year-old autistic boy. The pair bonded from the first day they met and from now on Quincy will be accompanying Ben at all times to help him face the challenges of everyday life. With Quincy’s calming and reassuring presence by his side, Ben can go about his daily activities with more confidence.
“Quincy can tell when Ben is about to have a meltdown and she goes to him and calms him down. Life has become much easier for the whole family since Quincy entered our lives,” said Ben’s father, Eric.
Since the Service Dogs Malta Foundation was set up in 2013, it has successfully trained and qualified five autism assistance service dogs and one diabetic alert dog. Once qualified, the dog is given to the family it has been matched with for free. As part of their training, the Foundation’s dogs also provide therapy services to children with behavioural difficulties and the elderly.
Vice chairman and co-founder of the Service Dogs Malta Foundation, Joseph Stafrace, explained that the ultimate aim of the Foundation is to provide a service dog to anyone who could potentially benefit from having one. This is no easy target when one considers that it costs the Foundation up to €15,000 to train and maintain a service dog.
Quincy’s training was sponsored by the Salvo Grima Foundation, which hosted her graduation ceremony at its premises. The graduation coincided with World Disability Week.
Welcoming those present, Salvo Grima Group CEO Karl Aquilina explained that the Salvo Grima Foundation was established in 2018 to contribute positively to society and the community around us. Quincy’s graduation was a sign that the Foundation was already registering visible results. The Foundation team of administrators was also looking forward to funding further valuable projects during 2019.
The ceremony was also attended by Education Minister Evarist Bartolo.
For more information on the Service Dogs Malta Foundation one may visit www.servicedogsmalta.com or call Jo Cremona on 7904 9675.