Northern Beaches Mums Group
Northern Beaches Mums Group

Assistance Dog for Chloe

Assistance Dogs are highly trained to perform tasks to support a person with a disability. While most people have seen a working guide dog, assistance dogs can also provide support to people living with hearing impairment, seizure disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, autism, and physical impairments. 

When Michele Yuen wanted to find out if an assistance animal might benefit her 8 year old daughter Chloe, she turned to Chloe’s physiotherapist Cathy Molloy at Just for Kids Physio for help.

“Chloe is an amazing little girl. She is social, imaginative and loves physical play. Chloe was diagnosed with Hereditary Spastic Paraparesis (HSP) at five years of age.” said Cathy.

HSP is a group of rare neurological disorders that causes spasticity and weakness of the leg and hip muscles. It affects balance and results in difficulty with everyday activities including walking. As the condition progresses, a walking aid or wheelchair is needed to maintain independence. 

 “At the moment Chloe is walking, but she falls up to thirty or 40 times a day. She gets up, brushes herself off and carries on. As Chloe gets older these falls will become a much greater problem.” said Cathy

Together with CP Quest, Guide Dogs Australia and Just for Kids Physio, Chloe begun walking training with Checkers – a 5yr old Labrador Therapy Dog in the Canine Court Companion Program. “Guide Dogs have been very generous with their time. Samantha O’Keeffe is Guide Dogs Therapy Dog Coordinator and she jumped at the opportunity to be involved.”

The team wants to understand what effects training with a mobility dog has on walking and balance. Checkers and his handler Gabbie attend twice weekly physiotherapy sessions at Chloe’s home. Each session includes gait training, specific practice related to Chloe’s goals, as well as balance tasks. 

 “We won’t know the results for some time yet. However the immediate improvements are obvious. Chloe’s family usually drive to the park as the time it takes to walk, and the number of falls Chloe has makes it a tiring activity. With Checkers, Chloe walks at a faster pace and enjoys the walk there and back – she will even run to get to the park. Checkers helps Chloe to engage in games that challenge her balance without falling. He provides Chloe with motivation to practice the play skills she needs to participate with her friends.” said Cathy.

The results will hopefully assist children with additional needs access a mobility animal through funding bodies like the NDIS. 

For information on the study you can email Cathy at

For information on Guide Dogs Australia –

For information on CP Quest –