A NEWPORT boy has not only gained a new best friend – but has also got over his fear of dogs.

Alfie Chesworth, six, was terrified of dogs until Cooper came into his life as his buddy dog.

Alfie has a condition called Septo-Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, which means he has limited sight, and he was fearful of things that moved too fast, vibrated or a bit jumpy.

He was paired with two-year-old yellow Labrador retriever Cooper – who was withdrawn from guide dog training after being diagnosed with elbow dysplasia. He then went through buddy dog training before settling in with Alfie and his family in Bassaleg thanks to Guide Dogs and People’s Postcode Lottery.

Mum Tamara said: “He has made a massive difference to Alfie and everyone at school has noticed. Alfie’s calmer, whereas he used to bounce constantly on his feet when he talked. It’s had a real impact on the whole family.


“Alfie has a brilliant personality and brings joy to a room wherever he goes. He has a great sense of humour.

“We needed Alfie to calm down, and that happened when we started going for walks with Cooper, who is a gentle giant and big enough for Alfie to track with his right eye. Alfie has got into a routine and even goes to sleep earlier, which makes it better for him to learn at school the next day.”

Cooper has really settled in both in the family and the community. Mrs Chesworth said: “Alfie gets involved in feeding and grooming Cooper, and even sets his alarm for 6.30am daily when we take him to the park. Cooper has befriended a border collie in the village called Willow, and they bring each other’s toys home – we have to swap them back.

“Cooper loves going in the river and playing with balls. James brought a light-up ball home from the gym so we can see it better, as we’ve lost a few.

“He has visited James’ work colleagues at Mini Sytner in Newport, and he’s been to Alfie’s school, Pentrepoeth Primary. I’m a florist, so Cooper comes with me to the wholesalers and even delivers bouquets with me.

“If we go to visit friends and family, Cooper comes too. We’re a package deal. We’ve even bought a caravan so we can go on holiday together. Alfie’s brother Jenson is only two but he’s fallen in love with Cooper as well, and the dog is very patient with him.

“When we heard about the buddy dog scheme from Guide Dogs, we applied immediately. We found the training and information days very helpful. Until you live with a dog, you don’t realise how much it can moult – I could make a wig! We were given plenty of support to decide if it was right for us, but we didn’t hesitate.

“Cooper has real personality and would have made a fantastic guide dog. But he also loves snuggling up and falling asleep, and he is definitely a family dog. When I see how he has changed our family, I know being a buddy dog was his true purpose.”

Kerry Bevan, head of Guide Dogs Cymru, said: “Alfie and Cooper are a great example of the positive effect that buddy dogs can have on the wellbeing of a sight-impaired child, helping to develop their self-confidence, improve relationships and build a greater sense of fun and trust in themselves and others.

"And it’s thanks to the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, whose support is helping fund the buddy dogs service this year and throughout 2022, that we’re able to make such a positive difference to the lives of up to 150 children like Alfie.”

To find out more about the Buddy Dog service in Wales, ring 0800 781 1444.