On Friday, June 7, 2019, two Autism Support Dog teams officially graduated from BC & Alberta Guide Dogs in Calgary. 6-year-old Eva graduated with her new Autism Support Dog, Lizzy; and 5-year-old Altin graduated with his new Autism Support Dog, Pearson. Both teams completed their training after two weeks of working one-on-one with Autism Support Dog Instructors Danielle Hyson and Michelle Murray.
BC & Alberta Guide Dogs breeds, raises and trains Autism Support Dogs that are provided to children ages 3-10 with profound autism. These certified Service Dogs are provided, along with training and aftercare support, at no cost to families for the working life of the dog, typically 8 years. The organization relies on donations from generous sponsors to provide these essential services. Team sponsor for Eva and ASD Lizzy is Jupiter Resources Inc.; team sponsor for Altin and ASD Pearson is Mackenzie Financial Charitable Foundation.
To the parents of a child with autism, an Autism Support Dog means increased safety, security and support for their little one.
As Eva’s mother, Elena says, “Being a kid with an obsessive tendency to bolt, Eva would try to elope [run off] when we are outside or in a crowded store or mall. It’s every parent’s nightmare to realize that her child might get lost. From the first walk Eva and Lizzy had together, it was obvious that Eva was so focused on Lizzy that there were no thoughts of bolting. It was all about holding Lizzy’s handle and staying together.”
Altin’s father, Ajet echoes a similar sentiment, “We hope that Altin’s safety will be increased by not bolting in public. We also hope his social skills will be improved and that he’ll learn responsibility.”
The graduation took place immediately following the final Public Access test.
“The Public Access test is required to certify the Autism Support Dog according to Provincial standards under the Alberta Service Dog Act. It’s a culmination of an incredible amount of training and preparation taken to breed, raise and professionally train a Service Dog,” says Bill Thornton, CEO of BC & Alberta Guide Dogs. “At the end of the process is a Service Dog that is a loyal and reliable partner with appropriate skills for someone in need.”
After graduation, both families have much to look forward to as their Autism Support Dogs settle in.
“Eva and Lizzy have bonded so quickly; it was hard to believe! Of course they are still learning how to understand each other, but it’s a great start for a very meaningful friendship,” Elena adds. “Lizzy is an amazing dog, so patient and gentle, so helpful in teaching Eva how to be friends.”