We decided late 2010 to seek a service dog to help Raymond cope with autism. Many people asked “Why a service dog for autism? Doesn’t that have to do with learning? How can a dog help that?” Hopefully, this will answer some questions about both the reason and the process of acquiring an autism service dog.

First off, I started this series with our fund raising letter because that’s the first news most people heard about the dog. I’m happy to announce that we have finished fund raising and are scheduled to have dog #3 from a litter due this spring! The mother’s name is Harley, and as of this post she has been inseminated and we are waiting to find out if she is pregnant. Pups will be born about 9 weeks after her insemination, if it took, so we’re looking at the April/May time frame for the pup to be born.

The decision was a hard one. We had discussed the idea at length, and had almost decided to do it when we met another little boy on the spectrum who had a dog. We were able to witness the wonderful relationship between the two and saw how quickly the dog was able to calm him down. It took my breath away. We decided that day, right before Halloween 2010, to inquire about a dog.

Just so folks know, you don’t have to fund raise for every service dog. Canine Companions for Independence is a wonderful organization that provides dogs free of charge for a number of disabilities, not just autism. There are several options for the family looking to get an autism service dog, so I don’t want to tout our route as the only one. However, after doing our homework we opted to go with North Star Dogs.

The first step was speaking to Patty Gross, the one woman dynamo in charge of North Star. She talked to us at length about the program, the benefits and the dogs. We then filled out an application, sent it in with supporting documentation on Raymond’s disabilities, and she approved us shortly after receiving it. Then we began fundraising.

The message we sent via email and facebook went out to about 700 people, many of whom I hadn’t seen in years. It was really heartwarming to see how people responded. We knew, since we were asking at Christmas, that many folks wouldn’t be able to give. We still sent it in hopes that it would raise awareness. We received so many emails promising not only funds but prayers, thoughts and well wishes. I want to take a moment to thank all those that gave. We are in the process of sending thank you notes, but with everything else we have going on its a slow process so please be patient.

I’m also going to blog every step of the way. Another friend who is a professional photographer has volunteered to take pictures and help us create a photo journal. We are really excited and looking forward to this experience. Our next steps are to get the fence put around our back yard and find a local “training family” to host our puppy for the first months of its life. I will write again when I have more news.