'Help us get a buddy dog for little Joe (10)'
The parents of a 10-year-old boy with special needs are appealing for help to raise funds for an assistance dog "so he has a buddy".
Joe Darling sits at the window of his home in Duleek, Co Meath, watching other children play but he can't participate because of a severe disability.
Joe's parents, Raymond and Carmel, originally from Ballymun in Dublin, say Joe doesn't interact with children his age and could run off if he went outside to play.
They are now aiming to get an assistance dog to keep Joe company at home as soon as he returns from St Mary's Special School in Navan.
"We hope the dog will be a companion for Joe as he doesn't have one," said Raymond. "Joe sits at the window all day looking out. It is very sad. He looks out and sees the other children playing and he can't joint in with them. He would just run off. He doesn't interact with them."
Joe was diagnosed with a severe intellectual disability at just three years old.
"After he was born he was in special care for a long time and he had very bad epilepsy. To watch your child take a seizure is just horrible," Raymond said.
The family knew there were some delays in his development but were shocked to be told it was so severe.
"What he has is like autism but it isn't the same," Raymond added.
Carmel and Raymond, who are also parents to Ryan (5) and Lily-Mae (2) who also has epilepsy, are now hoping to raise €10,000 to fund and train a dog through charity My Canine Companion.
The charity says the dogs help increase safety levels and alleviate "bolting behaviours".
They have set up a Facebook page 'A dog for Joe Joe' for those who wish to help.