Mother hopes assistance dog will transform daughter's life

The mother of a two-year-old girl born with a severe disability is desperately trying to raise funds for a special assistance dog.

Vicky Cunningham with her daughter Mirryn and their puppy Alvie, who is going to be trained as an assistance dog. Picture: Jon Savage

Born two months premature, Mirryn Cunningham from West Lothian has a genetic condition so rare, she is thought to be the only child in the world with it.

Her diagnosis of chromosome 17-12b disorder means she struggles to communicate, eat, walk and sit unaided.

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And until specialist doctors can help mum Vicky, from Uphall, understand how best to treat Mirryn, she is doing everything in her power to make life better for her daughter, including employing the support of a specially trained dog.

“I applied to The Waggy Dog Project thinking it would be brilliant to give her a friend for life who is with her 24/7 Who can help Mirryn communicate, build a bond and help her interact.”

But Vicky, 33, had not appreciated the soaring costs of the extra care for children 
with additional needs, particularly the price of training the dog.

Including the cost of Rottweiler pup Alvie, Vicky will have to shell out £5,500 for training and puppy exams.

To help raise money Vicky and her friends have organised an 80’s themed night at the Hibs Supporters Club in Edinburgh on Saturday, October 13, hoping the £10 tickets and a raffle will boost the much needed funds.

Vicky hopes that once Alvie has been properly trained, life for the family will become easier. She said: “We have been placed on a worldwide database to try and find a consultant from around the world who has seen this before.

“People ask me how you cope, you just do. I’m not saying we don’t have our bad days but you just have play the hand you’re dealt.”
Vicky said one of the hardest parts is not knowing how to help her child.

“There’s no doctor to sit us down and say ‘this is what your future holds’,” she said. “As a mum you strive and strive to find out what’s wrong with your child, thinking that you can fix it, or deal with what you know.”

“Assistance dogs have to be bigger and stronger to help as the child grows which is why we chose this breed.

“They need to be able to roll them over or help pull them up,” Vicky explained.

“They can also pick up when the heart rate drops, or press a panic button – they’re absolutely amazing.”