x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

'I take Apollo for walks ... he is a bit wild'

Giordan Pierrepont, 15, who has dyslexia, has been tasked with caring for the dog and working with a coach to train it.

DUBAI // Giordan Pierrepont, 15, shied away from making friends and preferred keeping to himself - until his parents brought home Apollo, the Golden Retriever.

The Greenfield Community School pupil, who has dyslexia, has been tasked with caring for the dog and working with a coach to train it.

"I feed him and take him for walks," said Giordan of his new best friend. "He is a bit wild."

Pamella Pierrepont, Giordan's mother, said the dog has taken Giordan out of a routine. "We have taken a step back and given Giordan the responsibility of working with the trainer," she said. "It is also a lesson in concentration because he has to pay attention for an hour."

Jackie Ratcliffe, chairwoman of K9 Friends, said she first noted the calming effect of trained dogs when they worked with special needs centres several years ago. "We have had a couple of families that have adopted dogs [for this reason], but it's not as popular as it is in the UK," she said.

In the United States, there are charities that provide such dogs, but the service has yet to reach here.

For Giordan, Apollo has become a confidant. "When I come home, he barks and forces me down. He is one of those evil geniuses, who has picked up on our brain power and has learnt to outsmart us," he said.

aahmed@thenational.ae