How these 3 brainy dogs are making lives better


1st Jan 2015 Life

How these 3 brainy dogs are making lives better

From rescue dogs to helping those with brain injuries, these Brainy Dogs are heroes!

Faith and Viv

Faith: Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross

Faith is a staffordshire bull terrier cross. She belonged to a young couple who were planning on emigrating. This left Faith with an uncertain future, her owners couldn't look after her forever she needed to find a new home. Home was eventually found with Viv* but it was a long journey.

The young couple became aware of a charity called Brainy Dogs. Brainy Dogs is a unique project brought together by Headway Ipswich and East Suffolk (a local brain injury charity), working in partnership with the Blue Cross animal shelter Felixstowe, and Hollesley Bay prison. Rescue Dogs from the Blue Cross are trained by prisoners. When the dogs have completed their training they will then become a companion dog, for a client with a brain injury or other neurological condition. The couple realised that this did good at every level, Faith would be trained up while helping rehabilitate prisoners, and eventually rehomed with a person who needed her help; and that person was Viv.

Viv suffers from water on the brain which has left her wheelchair dependent. She has lived on her own for many years and she felt lonely and isolated at times. 

Viv regularly came to the centre to see Faith and a gradual handover begun. Initially Viv would take Faith for a couple of hours, then overnight, then a weekend, then a week and then when everyone was happy Viv formally adopted Faith from the Blue Cross. Initially the coordinator kept a watchful eye over the partnership and initially all seemed to be going well. Viv was much happier and Faith was settled in her new home.

The pair go for many walks a day and would enjoy evenings cuddled on the sofa. They have even been sailing!


Archie and George 

Archie: Whippet

Archie is a 9-year old whippet, he was going through a tough time because his owner recently split up from her husband and he was left alone most days as his owner had to work full time. 

But now Archie doesn't spend too much time alone, as he has been trained up as a Brainy Dog. Every Thursday he hangs out with his new buddy George* and since then life has improved for the both of them.

George is in his eighties. He lost his wife last year and then shortly after lost his dog of 20 years: understandably he was feeling very low and lonely. He had been to many rehoming centres looking for a companion dog but due to his own old age, was refused adoption.

George started attending Headway due to a stroke he had suffered a few years earlier and soon enquired about a Brainy Dog to keep him company. It was around this time he decided he didn’t want the full responsibility of owning a dog but still wanted some company on the days he was at home alone. This is when he was introduced to Archie 

The pair now hang out every Thursday. George says he thoroughly enjoys having Archie for the day and it gives him something to look forward to. And when he isn’t with Archie he is at the centre where he has the centre dogs to interact with.


Jessie and Ashley

Jessie: Whippet Lurcher cross

Jessie was a 6-month old whippet lurcher cross when she came to Headway's attention. She had basic training but was a bit wet around the ears, the prisoners had a lot of work to do training her up. She learnt the usual stop, stay, sit, but crucially was taught to walk alongside a wheelchair on an adapted lead.

 Such is Jessie's charisma that when wheelchair bound Ashley* met her, he fell in love instantly. Even though she was young Jessie was extremely calm and sociable which made her ideal companion for Ashley.

Ashley had been in a bad way previously. His family live 2 hours drive away and the only way for AS to see them is a long train journey by himself or wait for them to travel down to him. He worked a couple of days a week but apart from that he led a lonely life and consequently he suffered from severe depression. He was introduced to the scheme by Viv and has never looked back since.

Jessie has given Ashley a new lease of life and he says he is much happier and is much more motivated these days. He often takes Jessie for walks with Viv and Faith they go to many different locations together.

*Some names have been changed

The Reader's Digest team are walking to raise money for Brainy Dogs. Be sure to sponsor us here.