A couple who scooped £1 million on the lottery have said a support dog for their severely disabled daughter is the best thing they have ever bought with their life-changing prize.
Adam and Amy Pryor said golden Labrador Merlin has “brought a bit of magic” into their lives while they and their daughter Charlotte have had to shield during the pandemic.
Charlotte was born seven weeks premature with a cleft palate and other life-limiting conditions.
Her parents had to spend much of the early part of her life going backwards and forwards to hospital, with money worries mounting and the end of Mrs Pryor’s maternity pay fast approaching.
But the couple, from Maidstone in Kent struck lucky and won £1 million in a EuroMillions draw in August 2017.
Mrs Pryor said: “Our lottery win, eight months after Charlotte was born, could not have come at a better time.
“The win took a lot of pressure off us and has enabled us to focus on what is most important, Charlotte.”
Charlotte has life-limiting conditions including a chromosome 11 abnormality, which has caused extensive developmental challenges, hearing difficulties and issues with her eyesight as well as her mobility.
Mrs Pryor, 32, grew up with dogs and has always wanted to have a family dog, so when one of Charlotte’s support workers mentioned an organisation which trains assistance dogs that may be suitable, she immediately made the call.
Almost a year after the initial inquiry to Supporting Paws, Merlin, a golden Labrador, was born.
His training is now well under way at the Pryors’ home – including learning that Charlotte’s hearing aid is not a toy.
Mrs Pryor added: “Merlin is a dream come true.
“(He) is still in training but we can already see the positive impact he is having on Charlotte. He is learning to walk while attached to Charlotte’s wheelchair, which in turn is encouraging Charlotte to go out for walks and I see her looking around for him.”
Merlin is also being community access trained, which will mean that he can go everywhere with Charlotte, including hospital appointments.
“He has a lovely temperament which has a calming influence and he already feels like one of the family,” Mrs Pryor said.
The couple firmly believe that without the win, Charlotte’s development would have been very different and they would never have been in a position to entertain the idea of having a pet, let alone a specially trained assistance dog.
Mr Pryor, 38, said: “Our lottery win has enabled us to do so much, from buying a bigger home with space for a specialist sensory room, to Amy giving up work to take care of Charlotte.
“But Merlin is by far our favourite purchase.”
Supporting Paws is a community interest company that trains assistance and companion dogs for a variety of disabilities and needs.
Their trainers spend time assessing what the individual’s needs are and tailor each dog’s training accordingly.
Ordinarily a family would need to raise £9,000 for all costs associated with a Supporting Paws dog.
Charlotte Chaney, from Supporting Paws, said: “As a person with autism and a parent of a young person with autism and learning difficulties, I have seen first-hand the difference a support dog can make to a family’s life.
“Merlin’s training has been tailored to Charlotte and her needs. For example, unlike most dogs who are trained not to jump up, we’ve trained Merlin to jump up so that he can engage with Charlotte while she is in her wheelchair.
“Similarly we’ve trained Merlin not to react to noises that Charlotte may make, which for other dogs would be a trigger to alert someone that something is wrong.”
For every EuroMillions line played, UK players automatically receive a EuroMillions Millionaire Maker code printed on their ticket creating a millionaire in every draw.
This Friday’s draw will see a EuroMillions European Millionaire Maker raffle with a record number of 100 one million euro prizes up for grabs.