FCI World Dog Show 2014 – Helsinki (FI), 8-10 August

The FCI main conformation event of the year is over and will remain in everybody’s mind as the symbol of what a perfectly well-organised dog show should be.

Year 2014 was for Finland the 125th anniversary of their creation. It was a superb reason for the Finns to apply for hosting the 2014 FCI World Dog Show, 16 years after having had the pleasure to meet the dog scene on the occasion of the 1998 FCI World Dog Show, with an interesting entry of 15,300 dogs.

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Y. De Clercq
FCI Executive Director
Autism guide dogs

Introducing the Royal Dutch Guide Dog Foundation (KNGF Geleidehonden)

The Royal Dutch Guide Dog Foundation (KNGF Geleidehonden) has been training guide dogs for the blind and the visually impaired since 1935. “In 2007 we began to train autism guide dogs for young children with autism,” said Ellen Greve, the Director of The Royal Dutch Guide Dog Foundation. “We had seen the good results with these dogs in foreign guide dog schools and decided to start a test here in the Netherlands. It was a great success. This special dog training has been a discipline of our organisation since 2012”. An autism guide dog is trained to guide a 3-7 year old with autism outdoors. Because these children often wander off or become anxious in new situations, some families hardly ever set foot out of the house. Linking a child’s safety harness to the dog makes wandering no longer possible. This behaviour will often disappear over time as a result allowing the entire family to regain its freedom of movement. Beyond this, the dog often has a positive influence on the child’s overall behaviour and development. We now have placed more than 40 autism guide dogs with families with an autistic child”.

Labrador called “Noortje”: a pillar of strength for Djamilo

Djamilo (9) suffers from extreme anxiety, especially indoors. He dares not make a move, even in his own room, without his mother, Tamara. She cannot even go to the bathroom without Djamilo trailing close behind. Ever since Noortje, an autism guide dog, has come to stay, things are improving slowly.

Djamilo was already a special child as a little boy, endowed with high intelligence, great creativity, and extreme fantastical thinking. He was, however, noticeably unable to tolerate pressure. After examination and review he turned out to have a form of autism, MCDD, which reveals itself in extreme fantastical thinking, anxiety, and sensitivity. That led him to cling to his mother as well as to have many emotional outbursts. Then Tamara read an article about autism guide dogs from the Royal Dutch Guide Dog Foundation (KNGF Geleidehonden) that can help children with autism. She made a request for one, Djamilo became eligible, and Noortje joined them last year. She is a sweet-tempered yellow lab trained to work with children with autism. “Djamilo thought she was wonderful, right off, even though we never had dogs. It was pretty tough at first, having a dog. I thought: “it is like I have two children now!” But we have worked it out, found our rhythm. Thanks to Noortje our life has taken on greater regularity, and we get outside more often.”

Greater self-confidence

Perhaps the greatest benefit from having Noortje is her effect on Djamilo’s self-confidence, which has given both him and his mother more freedom. An autism guide dog usually increases the mobility of the child and family out of doors, but things are different with Djamilo because his anxiety is triggered when indoors. More and more often he is able to remain alone in the living room for a few minutes so that Tamara can concentrate on the computer in a different room. Djamilo then grabs Noortje’s basket and pulls it close to himself. He dares to be alone with Noortje at his side. When Djamilo becomes angry, petting Noortje calms him. These may seem like very small steps but they are tremendous strides for Djamilo and his mother’s life, day to day. Tamara said, “Djamilo always had to sleep with me before. But with Noortje he can finally sleep in his own bed without calling for me twenty times a night. We put Noortje’s bed next to Djamilo’s. When he is frightened he calls her and she gets up and puts her head next to his. She does that all on her own, she can sense when he is angry or frightened. She also knows the command, touch. When Djamilo says that she comes running and makes contact with his hand. That distracts him and he is no longer frightened.” Djamilo is feeling safer now that he walks around the house during the day with Noortje.
Tamara is pleased with the change to their lives and happy that the Royal Dutch Guide Dog Foundation helped make it possible. “There is one more thing that I think is unusual. Until recently Djamilo did not want to hear the word “autism”. Now he shows off Noortje in the school playground and says, “This is my autism dog. I have autism, and that is great!” He is proud about her. And he also takes good care of Noortje; he is more considerate than ever before because of her“.

Tamara said, “MCDD will never go away but I have hope that it will be manageable with Noortje’s help. Djamilo’s self-confidence is still increasing. He recently said, “I just have to think about Noortje and then I feel safe again”. That sums it up.”

To see Tamara, Djamilo and Noortje click here on our website www.geleidehond.nl/autismegeleidehond