SLIDESHOW: Couples receive first dementia dogs

Two Arbroath couples say they have been given a new lease of life after receiving trained dogs that help people suffering from dementia.

Frank and Maureen Benham, of Marywell and Ken and Glenys Will have become the first in the UK to be given the dogs as both Maureen and Ken were both recently diagnosed with early-stage dementia.

Oscar, a golden retriever has been welcomed in by Frank and Maureen while Ken and Glenys have Kaspa, a Labrador.

And both Oscar and Kaspa have settled into their new homes and can carry out tasks such as acting as an alarm clock in the morning reminding their owners it is time to get up and fetching medication when it needs to be taken.

Both dogs have been with the couples since March and already both say they can’t now imagine their lives without Oscar and Kaspa.

Frank said: “It is amazing what Oscar can do and he has changed our lives so much.

“We are also getting out so much more as Oscar needs to be walked to get his exercise so it gets us out too and we see a lot more people.

“We’ve got much more confidence.

While Ken added: “Kaspa is perfect for us, he has given us our lives back.

And Glenys explained: “We are even going away on holiday in a log cabin and taking Kaspa. Something we couldn’t have done before.”

The project, which was generated by students at Glasgow School of Art’s (GSA) Product Design department, then developed by a partnership between Alzheimer Scotland, Dogs for the Disabled and Guide Dogs Scotland commenced in 2012.

A further two dogs have already begun their training.

Utilising the skills of the four organisations and helped by funds from the Scottish Government and the UK Design Council, the project could herald a new era in the way people with dementia and their carers are supported at home.

As puppies, Oscar and Kaspa, spent their first year with experienced volunteers, learning to be well-behaved and well-mannered young dogs.

At just over a year old they moved into the Guide Dogs Training Centre at Forfar, where they were trained for their new role, with the specialised help of staff from Dogs for the Disabled, based in Banbury, Oxfordshire.

And Pat Brodlie from Alzheimer Scotland was delighted with how both couples were getting on with their new pets.

She explained: “I was always confident the project would work, I just didn’t expect it would work so quickly.

“Often people with dementia find their lives become more narrow but the dogs have given them so much more confidence.”

And Helen McCain, director of training at Dogs for the Disabled says the project shows just how valuable dogs could be in helping assist people who suffer from dementia.

She said: “For 25 years we’ve been training assistance dogs for physically disabled adults and children and more recently for children with autism.

“This new project has provided us all with an opportunity to bring together our skills and experience to help with a different kind of challenge.

“We really believe that the dementia assistance dog could make a significant contribution to the government’s National Dementia Strategy.”