Assistance dog helps turn autistic girl’s life around

Nine-year-old Hannah Borthwick with her assistance dog Bailie, a chocolate brown Labrador puppy.
Nine-year-old Hannah Borthwick with her assistance dog Bailie, a chocolate brown Labrador puppy.
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The mum of a nine-year-old girl with autism has said an adorable chocolate brown Labrador puppy will help change her life.

Little Hannah Borthwick was diagnosed with autism a year and a half ago, leaving her struggling to make friends and sleep at night.

But now Bailie, a six-week-old chocolate Labrador, has been chosen by Hannah to be her lifelong best friend and assistance dog.

The pup is from the Waggy Dog Project, in West Lothian, which helps support children with autism.

Mum Sarah, 32, said she is grateful for the group, which she says has changed her daughter’s life for the better.

Sarah said: “After my daughter was diagnosed with autism a friend suggested we went along to Waggy Dogs and she’s come a huge way since she started.

“Bailie is a very cute chocolate Lab who is going to be her best friend. He will lick her tears when she gets upset and comfort her before she goes to sleep.”

Hannah, from Broxburn, West Lothian, finds nighttime difficult, but she will now have Bailie by her side to calm her down and help her get to sleep.

Sarah said: “It was Hannah that decided on Bailie. He was the only one who wouldn’t whine when picked up. He just lay on her and fell asleep.”

Hannah, who just celebrated her ninth birthday, was described by her mum as “super smart, lovely and just amazing.”

Sarah added: “Hannah just needs a wee bit extra support.

“She finds it difficult to make friends and she often just watches the other children playing. After parties she would just come back and hide with me.

“She also struggles with social situations, making friends and big crowds.

“I always suspected Hannah was a wee bit different and quirky as I work with children myself.”

Bailie will be allowed to come home with Hannah in just over a week, something both mum and daughter are looking forward to.

Sarah said: “Hannah is counting the sleeps – it can’t come quick enough.”

Once little Bailie is allowed home he will wear a sash as an official assistance dog accompanying Hannah when she’s out and about.

Bailie will also be allowed to visit Hannah when she’s at school.

The Waggy Dogs Project was co-founded by friends Laura Docherty and Sarah Nisbet just over a year ago.

The two kind-hearted women have created a space where parents and children can come together without the “sensory overload” of bright lights and loud noises.

Sarah Nisbet, 36, who has been breeding and donating dogs to charity for ten years, said: “The dogs I breed have to be laid back and happy-go-lucky, and to be able to calm a child down when they have a meltdown.”

“The change I’ve seen in Hannah has been incredible. She’s is an emotional girl and before Bailie she would get anxious and upset.”