Going mad for Miracle Assistance Dogs.
When I received an invitation to visit our newest community partners at their house I did not quite know what to expect. Jackie and I arrived at what looked like an ordinary house in East Maitland and knocked on the door. As soon as we were greeted we quickly realised that this house was far from ordinary. Fudge, John and Digger welcomed us with open arms (and paws) into their family home where we were treated like old friends. What we didn’t know at this point in time was that behind that front door miracles happen every single day.
Over the years Fudge and John have converted their home into a makeshift office for the 15 or so volunteers who turn up 3 times a week to assist with the operation of Miracle Assistance Dogs (MAD). This charity trains assistance dogs, facilities dogs and therapy dogs to support adults and children living with illness, physical disabilities and psychiatric disabilities. MAD dogs are working dogs who are carefully trained to improve the quality of life for their adoptive family. It is obvious when looking through Fudge’s photo albums and history books that these beautiful dogs are certainly rewarded for their incredible efforts with lots of love.
Fudge is an accredited dog trainer. She is part of a small field of people who are approved in our country to train hearing and assistance dogs. Over the years she has been asked to appear as an expert witness in court and has appeared on television as an expert on RSPCA Animal Rescue. Fudge was the founding president of Hunter animal rescue and has won a multitude of awards for her volunteering efforts and contributions to the local community. Despite coming with a swag of trophies and accolades Fudge is reluctant to receive a pat on the back and instead credits John her husband who has supported her during her own personal struggles and who works tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that MAD continues their amazing work in the years to come.
It takes two years to train an assistance dog and while they can be almost any breed Fudge says it takes a dog with the right temperament to step up to the plate. Often during training Fudge finds the dog might have a particular aptitude for a certain area and while she might start training a dog to recognise seizures they may, in fact, end up better suited to supporting someone with a hearing impairment. It’s also incredibly important that the dog and the person they will be helping have a connection. Sometimes finding the right person for the right dog can take time and as a result, MAD’s waiting list continues to grow.
All of the stories Fudge shared with us were incredibly moving, but it was hard not to be touched by the story of a little girl with Autism who was unable to attend mainstream schooling due to the overwhelming nature of that environment. Her miracle assistance dog not only helps her to remain calm which allows her to attend school but also protects her safety but anchoring when it does get too much and the child tries to escape.
Before we left Fudge took the opportunity to introduce us to her award-winning team who all have incredible stories to tell, many are facing their own challenges as a result of disability or illness. Fudge makes sure each person has a voice and it is clear that this is an organisation that utilises strengths and celebrates achievements. The office ran like clockwork and the passion and dedication from each of the volunteers were obvious.
Digger and Pharaoh two of the resident Miracle Assistance Dogs farewelled us with not only lots of kisses but by showcasing some of their talents. This included riding a skateboard, adding numbers together and showing us how they move around in public and follow commands. This level of training while necessary for so many families costs around $30,000 per year. Fudge and her volunteers donate their time and all other costs are funded out of John and Fudge’s own bank accounts or from the donations and fundraising. As our newest Community rewards recipient, we hope to ease that burden and support them in continuing their wonderful work.
If you would like to find out more about this wonderful organisation or make a donation please visit their website https://www.miracleassistancedogs.org.au/