Published: 20:57, 19 January 2022
| Updated: 21:20, 19 January 2022
A couple from Maidstone who won £1 million on the lottery have spent some of their winnings on the ultimate companion to change their disabled daughter's life.
Adam and Amy Pryor have bought an assistance dog named Merlin for five-year-old Charlotte from Supporting Paws, something they say they could never have done before.
Adam and Amy say Merlin has helped Charlotte's development
Charlotte was born seven weeks early with life limiting conditions including a chromosome 11 abnormality, which has caused extensive developmental challenges, hearing difficulties and issues with her eyesight as well as her mobility.
Eight months after Charlotte was born, Amy, 32, and Adam, 38, won the EuroMillions UK Millionaire Maker in 2017 just before Amy’s maternity leave finished and have used their win to improve their daughter’s quality of life.
Merlin came into their lives when one of Charlotte's support workers mentioned an organisation that trains assistance dogs for children with specialist needs.
Amy immediately made the call to Supporting Paws and almost a year later, the golden Labrador, was born.
His training is now well underway at the Pryor’s home - where he is learning that Charlotte’s hearing aid is not a toy.
Amy said: “Our lottery win could not have come at a better time. As doctors were running tests, more and more issues emerged.
"We spent most of our time going back and forth to hospital appointments and our money worries were mounting as the end of my maternity pay fast approached.
"The win took a lot of pressure off us and has enabled us to focus on what is most important, Charlotte.”
Adam and Amy both said that Merlin is the best purchase they have ever made with their Lottery winnings.
Adam added: “It has enabled us to do so much, from buying a bigger home with space for a specialist sensory room, to Amy giving up work to take care of Charlotte. But Merlin is by far our favourite purchase.
"The last 20 months have been extremely challenging, having to shield to protect Charlotte from contracting Covid, but Merlin has brought a bit of magic to our lives and long may he continue to do so.”
Merlin is still in training but is already having a positive impact on Charlotte.
He is learning to walk while attached to her wheelchair, which in turn is encouraging Charlotte to go out for walks.
He is also being Community Access trained, which means soon he will be able to go everywhere with Charlotte, including hospital appointments.
Supporting Paws is a Community Interest Company that trains assistance and companion dogs for a variety of disabilities and needs.
Their trainers spend time assessing what the individual’s needs are and tailor each dog’s training accordingly.
Ordinarily a family would need to raise £9,000 for all costs associated with a Supporting Paws dog.
Charlotte Chaney, from Supporting Paws, said: “As a person with autism and a parent of a young person with autism and learning difficulties, I have seen first-hand the difference a support dog can make to a family’s life.
"I set up Supporting Paws with Kate Body, an experienced canine behaviourist and trainer, and together we create a specialist training programme for each family we work with.
“Unlike most dogs who are trained not to jump up, we’ve trained Merlin to jump up so that he can engage with Charlotte while she is in her wheelchair.
"Similarly we’ve trained Merlin not to react to noises that Charlotte may make, which for other dogs would be a trigger to alert someone that something is wrong.
"We’re also developing a sensory coat for Merlin to wear to assist Charlotte’s physical development and motor skills, as it will encourage her to reach for items on his coat.
"It’s an ongoing process, but these are just some of the unique ways that Merlin will hopefully be able to enhance Charlotte’s life.”