Cumbernauld mum’s service dog fundraising drive

Written by Scott Campbell, Cumbernauld Media's Senior Reporter.

Published at 16:21 on 4 February 2015

NHS    Fundraising

A resident of the Condorrat area of Cumbernauld, Pauline and her 35-year-old husband have spoken  to Cumbernauld Media about their fundraising drive to raise £5,000 for a specially trained autism service dog.

4-year-old Kyle has autism. Picture: supplied.

ONE Cumbernauld mother has issued an appeal to potentially generous local residents, asking them to give whatever they can to give her young autistic son a service dog.

Pauline Skinner-McDade (34) works as a theatre nurse at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. However, when she gets home she’s a mother to three children – Scott, Zoe and Kyle.

A resident of the Condorrat area of Cumbernauld, Pauline and her 35-year-old husband have spoken  to Cumbernauld Media about their fundraising drive to raise £5,000 for a specially trained autism service dog.

“My husband James and I spoke about the possibility of getting a dog for the children previously, however ours is a very busy household and up until last summer both of us worked full time, which would have meant any dog we adopted would be spending a great proportion of the day alone which would not be fair to the dog,” Pauline explained to Cumbernauld Media’s Scott Campbell. 

She added: “Our situation changed in the summer when James gave up working full time to be there for our children – 6-year-old Scott, 5-year-old Zoe 5 and Kyle (4), in February.  

“We made this decision after Kyle’s behaviour started to become more challenging, meaning that it became apparent that one of us would have to be at home full time, and James’s employer was able to allow him to drop his hours to one day a week, while my employer guaranteed me one day off meaning that one of us are in the house seven days a week.”

Pauline told us that when first looking for a dog, both she and her husband thought of rescuing a dog, but that discussions with “several centres” led them to believe that “a rescue dog would not be ideal as many of the dogs had no history, meaning that re-homing into an environment which could be unpredictable and boisterous, which ours certainly can be, was not recommended.”

“Through research I discovered the use of service dogs for people with Autism,” Pauline explained. 

“Reading stories of families where children’s communication skills vastly increased, and stories of children who became more interested in the environment around them, and who began to participate more in the world around them, and took much joy from having a constant companion who was there to keep them safe and comfort them was a turning point.

‘Scary thoughts’.

“Safety is a big concern for us. Kyle, for instance, loves cars and buses even if it means running over a road to go see them. He also loves water and birds, so even just visiting Broadwood Loch is a scary thought, because Kyle’s behaviour can be unpredictable at times, and as he rarely reacts when you call his name we worry that he could put himself in a dangerous situation quicker than we could get him out of it.  

“Sometimes situations just become too much for Kyle and we cannot always figure out what it is that is causing his distress. 

“I was told once that autistic people experience senses differently from what other people would expect, and that every person who has autism is an individual, meaning their experiences cannot be predicted. And, the example that sticks in my mind is when I was told that some autistic people experiences a tag on the back of a t-shirt as being like the horrible noise of nails being dragged down a chalk board.”

‘Breaking into his world’.

34-year-old NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde theatre nurse told us that the thought of service dog “sounded amazing”.  

“We have a beautiful little boy, who mainly lives in his own little world; we are slowly breaking in to that world and the idea that a service dog for Kyle would make his life happier and safer was perfect, so I started contacting people expecting to fill out lots of forms be assessed to go on a waiting list and hopefully receive a service dog,” Pauline explained.

“Unfortunately, this was not the case, and I quickly discovered that the main providers of these specialist dogs are charities, which are already over-stretched and underfunded, that means that most aren’t even able to even take names for their waiting lists. After I found this out I kept searching, before I discovered Service Dog Europe. 

“Service Dog Europe is a company who can supply service dogs for various different purposes, i.e. autism, medical alert, guide dogs etc. They are not however a charity, and that’s why we’ve started this fundraising drive – so that we can raise at least some of the costs for an autism service dog – which cost in the region of £5,000 plus VAT.

“I found out the costs after I got in touch with Service Dog Europe, who explained to me that they seek a deposit of £500, before they start to look for a dog, with the next payment of £1,500 being due the week before the dog arrives, whirl the final payment to be made within a year.”

‘Amazing’ fundraising support.

Explaining how she has and how she intends to raise part or all of her £5,000 target, Pauline said: “We started our campaign in January with plans for a race night in March, which is being held in the British Legion, while we’ll also be holding a pub quiz in April. 

“We also have a team running the ladies 10k in Glasgow, in May, as well as a fundraising evening in the pipeline in the Stepps bar, in Glasgow City Centre, in May,” she explained.

Pauline continued, “We have opened a ‘Go Fund Me’ page for Kyle to, in addition to a special Facebook page who details all of our current and future fundraising events.”

“We have received offers of some fabulous raffle prizes so far from businesses such as La Belle Forme, the Rainbow Rooms, Paradise Island, Glengoyne distillery, Blair Atholl distillery, Crow Wood Golf Club and Robert Mclaughlin Photography.  I have also contacted many other companies we are hoping we’ll have some amazing prizes to raffle off.” 

“So far we have we have raised £200 in donations alone and we are hopeful that our events will get us closer to our target, with the aim being having the full amount by the end of the year,” Pauline added.

Living with autism is like a ‘rollercoaster’.

When we asked Pauline about what it’s like to live and care for somebody who has autism, she explained it was like “living on a roller coaster”, adding: “the highs are amazing but the lows can be pretty hard.”

“We are very lucky though; Kyle is a very loving child – he loves to play with Thomas the Tank, and will wear anything with Thomas the Tank on it. He loves to sing the songs he learns at nursery too,” she continued.

“Kyle would spend all day in the bath or shower, he just loves water so much so that he cannot go to bed without having a bath or a shower every night – even if he's already had one.  

“However, he sleeps on his terms alone, which can often be only a few hours a night – which is exhausting for mum and dad but not Kyle. 

“He loves to wear anything with Thomas the Tank on it, as I said, but he absolutely hates almost every pair of shoes he has ever been bought. For instance, I have bought the same pair of trainers from ASDA five times, in different sizes, because that’s all he will wear – I dread the day they stop making them.

“However, I would have to say that the hardest part of living with autism is not being able to understand what is upsetting my son, so that we can make it better for him – because that’s what mums and dads are supposed to do.”

You can donate to Pauline’s campaign here