Dogs for Autism center opens after DIY SOS-style overhaul

  • By James Ingham and Katie Waple
  • BBC South

Legend,

Macca and others are being trained by the relatively new charity Dogs for Autism

A new dog training center supporting people with autism has opened after volunteers carried out a DIY SOS-style renovation of a disused building.

Dogs for Autism needed help to renovate the site in Alton, Hampshire, and received help from a community of Volkswagen (VW) enthusiasts.

More than 40 members of the automotive group then set to work to complete the project.

The charity now hopes to offer more people the unique support that specially trained animals can provide.

It takes two years to train a dog, at a cost of £25,000.

Legend,

More than 40 VW enthusiasts contributed to the DIY SOS style project

The idea to help with the new center came about when the VW Group heard about the plight of Dogs for Autism and decided to use its Run the Ring event to help raise the necessary funds.

It’s usually about enthusiasts riding around the M25 together – but this year they’ve taken their efforts to another level.

John Emberton, of Run the Ring, said that rather than just raising money, they decided the best option was to simply take on the conversion themselves.

They held an intervention and over 40 Vee Dub owners working in various trades volunteered their time to bring the vision of the new center to fruition.

Legend,

Chris Packham spoke about his own struggles with autism at the center’s official opening

After all the hard work, there was a celebration and official opening by Dogs for Autism boss Chris Packham, who spoke about the importance of dogs in his life.

The Springwatch host told the BBC: “As an autistic person, I recognize the value that the companionship of another species can have.

“In fact, without knowing that this was what was happening at the beginning of my life, I developed a real dependence on this relationship and it gave me access to places and people that I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“It’s a really important charity that gives, particularly young people who are at the most vulnerable times in their lives, a really positive outlook and generates opportunities that I don’t think many of them would have otherwise .”

Legend,

Grace said her dog Macca helped ease her anxiety

Among the beneficiaries of the association’s help is Grace, whose dog Macca has had a positive impact on her quality of life.

“I’m anxious but at the same time I’m really overwhelmed: the sights, sounds and smells are overwhelming me,” she said.

“I wouldn’t go out alone, so I would be housebound.”

But that has changed since Macca came into his life.

“It’s remarkably different: If I didn’t have it, I would struggle,” she added.


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