Down’s Syndrome girl, 9, now loves her assistance dog after scary first meeting – The Sun

TWO years ago Milli Gunn was scared of dogs – but after meeting Emma the labrador, today things could not be any different.

Milli’s parents Steve, 44, and Christina, 41, were sceptical that they would be able to find a suitable assistance dog for their nine-year-old, who has Down’s Syndrome, until they gave Dogs For Good a go.

The little girl was scared when she first met Emma — but after an hour she said: “I like that dog, Daddy. She’s really nice and fluffy.”

That moment sparked a lifelong bond between the pair which has helped keep Milli’s social anxiety at bay and build her confidence.

Cycling instructor Steve, who lives in Upminster, Essex, with wife Christina and their three kids, said: “Milli’s always been full of beans and is such a lovely girl. But she never shone like that outside home.

“Having Emma enables her to do that so people get to see more of her personality.”


Having an assistance dog has encouraged Milli to socialise with others without feeling nervous, and the pooch gives a focal point for her during conversations.

Steve added: “Emma’s been such a social ice-breaker for Milli. She gives Milli something to focus on rather than herself.

“Having that security blanket is great because people generally ask about the dog and it’s not so imposing for her.”

At four weeks old, Milli was put into intensive care after developing bronchitis.

Doctors then discovered she had a hole in her heart and operated on the tot. At age five, Milli had open-heart surgery again.
She now suffers from pulmonary hypertension, a serious condition which leaves her out of breath, and has reduced her muscle tone.

Milli’s health problems have affected her ability to move around and do simple tasks — but Emma is on hand to help. Milli sometimes leaves her medication bottle lying around the house, so the pooch can retrieve it when asked to. She even opens doors on command.

Emma also rests her head on Milli’s lap when she gets anxious or out of breath.

The two love to play football and hide-and-seek, and enjoy tea parties together.

But it’s not just Milli who has benefited from having a furry family member.

Her siblings Jacob, 12, and Ciara, 14, absolutely adore Emma and their dad reckons that having a pooch adds another special element to the family’s dynamic.

Steve said: “She’s the perfect dog for our family. She is like a librarian — nice and quiet, not barking.

“Emma is just ideal. Whenever you want to play, she’s there. For the rest of the time, she just chills out and you wouldn’t know she’s there.

“We go out for walks and stuff a lot more as a family. It makes you spend time together in a different way than what you would do when you haven’t got a dog.”

Milli added: “I love Emma. She’s my best friend.”

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DOLLY the English terrier is a true fighter.

She is eight weeks old and lost four siblings when their mother suffered complications giving birth.

Dolly’s owner Rhiannon Maher, 24, from Shepherd’s Bush in West London, was told by vets Dolly could have fading puppy syndrome, when newborn dogs die within a few weeks.

They feared Dolly would not make it after suffering from lung and heart irregularities, needing around-the-clock care.

She said: “Although the odds seemed stacked against her, at every hurdle she proved herself as a little fighter.

“Even the vets were surprised and happy with her progress when she finally started to come around. Dolly is a sassy little pup with a lot of fight. She loves racing like a loon up and down the hallway and playing with her cat toy.”

Pet Vet

KATIE MASSEY, 31, of Whitton, South West London, takes her six-year-old Siberian husky Trixie out every day for a walk but Trixie loves to cause a commotion with other dogs.

Q) Do dogs have different “languages”? Can they understand each other when they howl and bark? And why is there a commotion?

A) Dogs definitely have their own language. One reason we often misinterpret their behaviour and emotions is that we try to explain their behaviour using our own language.

Howling is in every dog’s vocabulary but certain breeds are more prone to doing it, such as huskies and malamutes. Generally, it is a rallying call when other dogs are around and everyone is excited.

Trixie is probably saying: “Come on, guys, let’s get this party started!”

Or sometimes, if she is a little nervous of some of the dogs in the group, she may be seeking reassurance from the familiar ones that she is not alone.

JANE SMITH, 56, from Leeds, has a tabby cat called Tilly. She is confused as to why her cat likes to behave more like a dog.

Q) Why does my cat bark? Also, why does she knock over stuff all the time? Isn’t that more dog than cat?

A) I’ve never heard of a barking cat! So I have no idea, I’m afraid. Is Tilly some crazy dog-cat hybrid?

Cats do sometimes make some funny vocalisations.

There is a guy at work who is convinced his cat Chloe calls his name: “Ian. Iaaannnn.”

I reckon she is meowing.

Still, cats are capable of all different sounds, just like us.

Knocking stuff over is just to test your patience and remind you who is in charge . . . just remember, the cat is the boss, not you!

They really are curious creatures.

  • Do you need the Pet Vet’s help? Email [email protected] and you and your pet could feature in The Sun on Sunday.


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Redeem in any one of 11 centres nationally ( For a chance to win, email [email protected] with HEALTHCARE PLAN in the heading. Terms and conditions apply.

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