Canadian Labrador Retriever Forest Becomes Autism Service Dog



Isn’t it wonderful how many ways service dogs can help out? Big barks to forest and his family!

Thanks to for this article.

Boys best friend B.C.s first autism service dog lends helping paw to Delta family
By Kristine Thiessen – South Delta Leader – April 04, 2008

B.C. Guide Dog Services has trained its first autism services dog, and its making a huge difference for one Delta family.

Dave and Kim Hardings five-year-old son, Maxwell, is autistic.

Hes pretty well in the middle range, said his father. He has some speech and hes cognitively aware of whats going on but he does have communication issues.

For two weeks now theyve had Forest, a two-year-old Labrador retriever trained to physically and emotionally aid with the care of autistic children.

Prior to getting Forest, the Hardings had trouble taking Max shopping or somewhere where they needed to stop and look at something for a period of time. He would dart off in what he perceived as high stress situations.

It could be something as simple as little changes that you or I wouldnt really notice, said Dave. Or sometimes its a sound, hes overly sensitive to sound. It could be a light bulb making a buzzing sound.

Now, they can take Max to the grocery store and not worry about him running off, said his father. Max is connected to the dog by a belt around his waist, which ensures Max cant dash into a busy street.

And when Max becomes stressed, his parents tell him to pet Forest and he calms down.

With Forest by his side, Max will calmly watch his older brothers soccer games from the sideline. When its time to sleep at night, Forest sleeps on Maxs bed and boom, hes out like a light, said Dave.

He describes Forest as very laid back, the perfect temperament for this type of position.

Two years ago the Hardings approached B.C. Guide Dog Services, asking if they offered autism service dogs theyd heard about through Internet research.

At the time CEO Bill Thornton told him no, but that it was a service they wanted to offer soon. The Hardings kept in touch and eventually applied for Forest.

Thornton said hes received many requests for dogs like Forest, but B.C. Guide Dog Serviceswhich is headquartered in Deltahadnt been able to respond to the need until recently.

Thornton learned of a guide dog school in Ireland that had integrated autism service dog training into its program. Using that school and one in Ontario as models, he is developing Autism Support Dogs as a separate entity that will run out of the same Ladner office.

With two separate agencies they can really go 110 per cent, he said.

He is currently registering Autism Service Dogs as a non-profit society, status he hopes to have by the end of April. The next step is registering as a charity which could take until the end of the year. By that time, Thornton hope to have two more dogs trained.

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