Rescue greyhound Willow cures seven-year-old Sawbridgeworth girl's fear of dogs with help of Ace Hounds
A rescue greyhound called Willow has turned the life of a little girl around and led to her embarking on an artistic fundraising campaign.
Seven-year-old Matilda Woodall is said by her family to be funny, creative and kind – but she is also autistic and had an “indescribable, irrational and seemingly perpetual fear of all dogs”.
That’s when her family came across Ace Hounds, a Great Hallingbury-based charity whose mission is to “enrich the lives of isolated people in the community with the aid of friendship dogs".
It teamed Matilda and her Sawbridgeworth family with ex-racing greyhound Willow and there followed walks, talks and advice from Elaine Sheppard at the charity.
Matilda’s mum Lara said: “What started as a single friendship dog walk to try to ease Matilda’s fear led to another, which led to more, which led to a call about a new arrival, then a trial, some fostering and finally a friendship that’s most definitely here to stay.
“In the two months she’s had Willow, Matilda has learnt that not all greyhounds are quite so lucky. She’s determined to change that and had a lovely fundraising idea to do so.
“Matilda said to me one day, ‘Mum, I want to raise money to help the greyhounds,’ so we came up with an idea.”
Naturally for Matilda, as she spends much of her time doing arts and crafts with her mum, that involved her creative skills and led to setting up the website Willow and Us – “one artistic, autistic seven-year-old’s mission to help the greyhounds”.
Among the items on sale are greeting cards, original art by Matilda and her mum, and Matilda’s Miniatures. Many items have already been sold, with all profits going to Ace Hounds.
Matilda's dad Stu told the Indie how besides curing her fear of dogs, Willow had helped with his little girl's autism.
"Matilda suffers with sensory stuff. She finds things difficult if there are any loud noises and she will often go to the dog or the dog will go to her. She's been such a positive addition."
Stu said working with Ace Hounds had been crucial as they were able to see how it would work with Matilda, who attends Matching Green Primary School.
If you want to buy any of Matilda's artwork see www.willowandus.co.uk/