Support dog who formed an amazing bond with a young girl left disabled by a stroke.

Sofia Dobson was left wheelchair-bound and with cerebral palsy after suffering a devastating stroke when she was just two days old. Doctors said she would probably not be able to talk or walk but she has managed to prove them wrong, aided in recent years by her best friend Matilda.

While Sofia is able to attend a mainstream school, the family, from Warrington in  Cheshire, felt that a support dog could help her with her complex sensory issues. After a lengthy search for the right breed, the family settled on a Bichon Frise and were won over by Matilda’s laid-back nature when they got her as a puppy.

Sofia, now eight, who is also registered blind, immediately formed an extremely close bond with Matilda and the pair are now inseparable. Sofia says: “Matilda is my best friend. When I am scared or sad she makes me happy again, I love her so much.” 

Her mum Sarah, 45, who is also studying forensic psychology, explains: “Sofia struggles to make friends and communicate with other children. So, we thought a dog would be perfect for companionship and improving her confidence.

“Matilda has helped Sofia in so many ways, even letting us know when she might be about to have a seizure. Like everything else, we’ve never taught her that, she just seems to know what to do.

“Because of the stroke, Sofia doesn’t have the ability to calm down and control herself when she gets frustrated and blows off steam. But when she has a meltdown, Matilda instinctively puts her head on Sofia’s lap and that calms her instantly. It’s just so lovely to see the bond they have.

“She’s like a real-life little teddy bear who never leaves her side. The difference in Sofia in the past two years has been incredible.” 

Sarah added: “We are extremely honoured and humbled to receive such an amazing award in recognition for the extraordinary bond between Matilda, who is now 2, and Sofia. We are so lucky to have her in our lives and words cannot express the impact Matilda has and continues to have on Sofia’s quality of life. It also helps raise awareness of the undeniable impact that animals can have on our lives.”