BBC viewers were moved as a five-year-old boy with cerebral palsy met his ‘companion’ puppy for the first time.
Darren and Gemma Summerscale-Heards appeared on BBC2’s 12 Puppies and Us, where they revealed they were looking for a pup for their non-verbal son Dexter, to help him become more independent.
The couple, who also have Tiana, nine, Spencer, one and Boxer dog Simba, chose an eight-week-old St Bernard called Woody to move into their Surrey home, and viewers were delighted as the pair met for the first time.
Viewers quickly took to Twitter calling Dexter and Woody a ‘good team’ and hailing the programme ‘beautiful and heartwarming’.
The Summerscale-Heards family adopted eight-week-old St Bernard puppy Woody (pictured) for their non-verbal son Dexter, to help him become more independant
Dexter suffered hypoxia as an infant, a condition where the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply at the tissue level, and after developing cerebral palsy ‘really struggles physically’.
‘He has a wonderful sense of humour’, said Gemma. ‘He is such a joy to be around, and he lights my world.
Darren added: ‘He just wants to be a typical five-year-old and get up to mischief, but his body won’t allow him to do that.’
Ahead of picking up their new dog, the parents stressed their hope that Woody would eventually be able to get to know their son, and learn to carry out simple assistance tasks.
Darren and Gemma Summerscale-Heards appeared on BBC2’s 12 Puppies and Us, with children Dexter, five, who has cerebral palsy Tiana, nine, Spencer, one and dogs Simba and Woody
BBC viewers were moved as a five-year-old boy with cerebral palsy met his ‘companion’ puppy for the first time
The parents adopted eight-week-old St Bernard puppy Woody for their non-verbal son Dexter, to help him become more independant
‘Dexter is non-verbal,’ said Gemma. ‘That’s really challenging and for us as a family. It’s so important the dog is able to understand the needs of Dexter, that’s paramount.’
Darren went on: ‘Dexter isn’t very good at handling his toys, so maybe the dog will be able to pick up his toys and give it back to Dexter. If he’s upset maybe the dog can comfort him, so he can have a companion he can call his.’
After Gemma brought Woody home, the children were seen fawning over the new pet, and he and Dexter quickly warmed to each other, with the puppy giving him kisses immediately after meeting.
Viewers were warmed by the moment, with one writing: ‘Woody and Dexter make a proper good little team.’
Viewers quickly took to Twitter calling Dexter and Woody a ‘good team’ and hailing the programme ‘beautiful and heartwarming’
While another commented: ‘This is such a beautiful program.’
Gemma went on to explain why it’s so important for Woody to be able to eventually recognise her son’s needs without him communicating verbally.
‘For someone who doesn’t know Dexter, that’s [communicating] is really difficult for them and him, because he might be trying to communicate with him, but they don’t understand.’
She added: ‘He can have a friend who is also non verbal, who is a giant that he can maybe play with and have that magical connection.’
Dad Darren added: ‘I’m hoping it can make him a bit more independent, that would be nice to have.’
Gemma and Darren went on to explain why it’s so important for Woody to be able to eventually recognise her son’s needs without him communicating verbally
After Gemma and Darren brought Woody home, he quickly settled in and the children were seen fawning over their new pet
Woody and Dexter quickly warmed to each other, with the puppy giving him kisses immediately after meeting
The family were seen trying to teach the pup some basic obedience tasks, starting with the simplest commands of sit and stay and remembering his name, without much success.
Darren set himself a target of getting Woody to sit, stay and come in two weeks, which proved to be difficult with Woody’s stubborn temperament.
However after two weeks, Darren was able to impress his family with some of the new tricks he’s learned.’
‘I was fairly confident’, said Darren, ‘I was nervous, but i’m happy for Woody and we pulled it out the bag.’
Gemma added: ‘I am hugely proud of Darren and everything he’s achieving with Woody, he’s really persistent and it’s really nice to observe that and see what you’re both accomplishing it’s really nice’.