Support dog Toffee makes Special Olympics extra special for official Jean

Disabled athletics official Jean Hoyle-Dodds is officiating at the Special Olympic Games in Sheffield  – with her faithful assistance dog by her side.

Jean, who has severe osteoarthritis affecting her spine and uses a wheelchair, is accompanied by three-year-old golden cocker spaniel Toffee, trained by Sheffield-based national charity Support Dogs.

Thanks to the support of her invaluable canine companion and two previous specialist assistance dogs, Jean, aged 63, from Blackburn, is able to pursue her love of track and field athletics.

Following surgery last year, Jean, a self-employed accountant, has returned to being a field official with UK Athletics. She travels with Toffee to competitions across the north of England to officiate for the Blackburn Harriers.

Jean, married to Owen with two daughters and seven grandchildren, says: “Toffee gives me the confidence to go out alone and he’s always at my side. I wouldn’t be without him.”

Toffee also supports Jean in a practical way. “He helps me dress, he can pick up things for me, and open doors,” said Jean. “He gives me such love and support and just wants to please everyone.”

Jean has been a client of Support Dogs since 1997 when she had Tammy, a rescue dog trained by the charity.  Tammy was followed by Sasha, a Labrador, who is now retired but lives with Jean and Toffee.

“They have all been wonderful in their own way,” said Jean. “Having an assistance dog has given me such confidence and helped me maintain by independence in so many ways.”

The Special Olympics runs from August 9-12.