Earlier this year client Amy Williams celebrated the retirement of her epilepsy seizure response dog Stanley. Here, we look back over the life-changing difference he has made! 

For almost a decade, a trusty black Labrador has been the guiding force in Amy Williams’ life. 

Amy and “Stan the Man”, as she calls her beloved Stanley, graduated as a Support Dogs partnership in 2016.

This year Stanley turned 10, which is the retirement age for our charity’s support dogs being a working dog. 

Stanley was the guest of honour at a retirement doggy tea party attended by Amy’s carers’ pooches but there was still a tinge of sadness as the pair reached  the end of a partnership that has been truly life- changing that all good things must come to an end. 

“I can’t be without Stanley – I can’t imagine getting a second support dog while he is still around”

Amy was just two-and-a-half years old when she developed encephalitis, a potentially life-threatening inflammation of the brain, which was brought on by chickenpox. 

It left her with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, turning her and her family’s lives upside down. 

Amy has what is known as ‘startle’ seizures, which happen suddenly and without warning, and can be triggered by something as innocuous as her phone ringing or someone knocking at the door. 

As the seizures occur suddenly due to external factors, rather than  as a result of physical change in Amy’s body, Stanley has been trained to respond rather than warn in advance. He will also pull an alarm chord to let Amy’s parents or carers know she needs help, help her to get undressed, and even picks up her debit card, medication, and phone. 

Amy’s condition had left her being scared to go to sleep, worried that without parents or carers around, she may choke or seriously injure herself. 

When she was 19, Amy did an internet search on something that would help her increase her independence. 

Up popped Support Dogs, and after two years on the waiting list, she was matched with Stanley, who bounded into her life as an 18-month-old.

I was in a bubble before I got Stanley – I didn’t want to leave the house as I was so anxious and scared” 

But after Stanley came along, Amy’s confidence grew and she started going out to places - coffee shops, the pub, on walks, and to the gym, and having the support dog beside her helped her to start to talk to people. 

She attends a youth club for people with disabilities twice a week, where everyone loves Stanley. 

I’m much more confident now. If I didn’t have Stanley, I think I would have stayed in bed all of my life. He has given me a sense of purpose. Thank you, Support Dogs - the team and Stanley are amazing.

What happens when a support dog retires?

All support dogs are retired at around 10 years of age. This is to help to ensure that they get to enjoy and happy, relaxing final years of their lives, rather than continuing to work as they become more tired and susceptible to illness and injury due the ageing process. Once retired, the majority of the our support dogs, continue to live with the client and the family they have been supporting, to enjoy the rest of their life as a pet dog. Where this is not possible, then our charity works to find a suitable alternative loving home. This is often with a family member who is familiar with the dog, or alternatively a volunteer who the dog lived with during their training and upbringing.