May 1, 2019
Thatcher is eleven years old and has Autism, which comes with a host of issues from sensory processing disorder to non-verbalism. For Thatcher’s family, this can lead to very dangerous situations where Thatcher doesn’t know how to cope with the world around him, and therefore, runs in whatever direction, without understanding the danger. This is why in 2013, I, Thatcher’s mother, began the journey to obtaining a service dog. The first step in that process was research, which led me 4 Paws for Ability, Inc. located in Xenia, Ohio. I began by filling out an application and qualifying. Then I began fundraising. I did several fundraisers with organizations like Yankee Candles, Thirty One, and Bravelets. I also sold candy bars and our family made an appearance on our local news station. Once we got to our goal and had completed all the necessary paperwork and requirements (some videos of Thatcher’s life and a prescription from Thatcher’s doctor), we were placed in a class that took place in November 2017. This two-week training course was where we met Saul, the best dog for Thatcher’s needs, who has now become a huge part of our family. During our two weeks of training, we were required to stay within a 30-minute drive of the training facility. There we learned how to drive Saul. He knew all of his commands, but now, we, his new family would also need to learn them. We learned the basics, like heal, sit, leave it, and implied stay, but what we also learned was over and down, a command to help when Thatcher is having a meltdown. In this command, Saul lays on Thatcher to provide deep pressure and calm him quicker. Saul is also trained to be tethered to Thatcher, which keeps Thatcher from wandering off when we are out in public, but most importantly, Saul is trained to “find his boy.” This task is meant for when Thatcher goes missing. Saul can be commanded to find him using Thatcher’s scent alone. This is the most important thing for us because over half of children who have Autism wander from the safety of their caretakers and many of the children who go missing are drawn to water and drown. Now, Saul helps keep Thatcher safe every day. The two are never separated and now often act like brothers, which is worth all of the hard work it took to get Saul. If you would like more information on how to get your child a service dog, please go to http://www.4pawsforability.org.