Adrian Chavez’s parents sleep a lot better now thanks to Adrian’s service dog, a Goldendoodle named Chase. Adrian is an 8-year-old boy with autism who often wandered off when the family was out or even in the middle of the night slipping out of the house. Now thanks to Chase, who is always with Adrian, his parents know he is safe.
Two years ago Adrian’s father, Carlos, was searching the internet for autism assistance dogs when he found Highland Canine Training. The cost for a trained dog was $10,000 and the Chavez family couldn’t afford it. So they created the Adrian Chavez Benefit Fund to raise the money needed for an assistance dog. Donations came into the fund from friends, family and people they didn’t know, including $1000 from an anonymous donor. The family reached their goal and was able to get Adrian the service dog he needed.
In early July trainers from Highland Canine Training arrived with Chase. Training of a service dog typically takes about five or six months. The trainers not only take time to train the dogs but also develop a relationship with a prospective family, gathering information to make an appropriate match. They spent a week getting to know the family and training Chase in his new home and around the community.
Now if Adrian wanders off, Chase is trained to track him, much to the relief of his parents. “It’s relaxing to know Adrian is more safe,” Carlos said. Chase is also helping Adrian in other ways. If Adrian retreats to a corner, Chase lies by his side. Chase attracts other kids when they are out in public allowing Adrian to be more social and interact with them.
Service dogs have been helping people for decades. They were first trained back in 1929 to guide the blind. Since then training has been developed so service dogs can help more disabilities, including those that are hearing impaired and those with autism like Adrian.
The demand for autism assistance dogs has only emerged in the past few years. The training director at Highland Canine Training, Jason Purgason, noted that, “There are still a lot of people that don’t know it’s an option. These kids and dogs sleep together and go to school together; the bond that develops is pretty amazing to see.”