A Helping Paw for Pete

Many of you know Pete; but since this GoFundMe campaign is for him, let me tell you a little bit about him. Pete is seven years old, a talented artist, and perhaps the sweetest person I have ever met. He loves to hike, and he has a sly, surprising sense of humor. He likes swimming and stuffed animals, and his favorite food is ketchup.

Pete has autism.

Sometimes I list ways in which Pete is different when I’m trying to help his brother, Fionn, understand why Pete can’t play pretend with him, or why Pete still wears diapers. Pete can’t talk very much; Pete has trouble understanding what people are saying; Pete doesn’t understand why it’s important to follow the rules. But one of Pete’s biggest differences is one I don’t have to point out to anyone who’s met him: Pete is a tremendously physical person, licking new windows and dropping to roll on new floors. Pete loves hugs, baths, tickles, and squeezes. We’ve built a number of sensory activities into our life together, and now I think it’s time to take a big step toward making Pete’s life even better: a service dog.

What can a service dog do for someone with a cognitive disability? For one thing, Pete is—well, not so much a flight risk as a wander risk. He doesn’t have any sense that he should stay near his Mama, or that he should stay where someone can see him; if the spirit moves him, he moves. Pete is also a beautiful boy with no sense of “stranger danger,” and having a big dog looking out for him would make me feel a great deal safer when he’s out in the world. For another, service animals trained for autistic people provide solid, comforting weight—the soothing sensory input of a big, furry pal in your lap when you’re spinning out of control can help with frustration, aggression, and self-injurious behavior. I have seen these dogs gently nudge their human partners to sit and then climb into their laps when the dogs sense their humans becoming distressed—and I have seen those human partners calm and cling to their service animals. I want that for Pete, who, while a fundamentally gentle soul, will slap, shriek, and bang his head against the wall when frustrated—and the world is deeply frustrating for a person with autism.

Fully trained service dogs are prohibitively expensive, and I’m more than willing to take on the challenge of raising a puppy to be Pete’s assistant and his buddy. Service dogs are usually purebred dogs because breeds have predictable characteristics; if we get a puppy from a shelter, there’s no way of knowing how bright or biddable he will be as a full-grown dog. If we buy a Labrador, Saint, or Golden Retriever puppy, we know that he will grow to be a devoted, obedient, and gentle dog. I can give him the skills he will need to serve Pete in particular.

Therefore, I have decided to reach out to family and friends for help: a purebred puppy and all the trimmings ain’t cheap. A puppy will cost somewhere between one and two thousand dollars: then we have vet bills, a crate and bed, toys, food, a harness, training and socialization classes, certification as a service animal, and on and on. If you’re able to help and wish to, I would be very grateful; if not, thanks for taking the time to read this. Any money we raise will go toward a dog and dog expenses. If we go over our goal, we’ll have kibble and dog shampoo money in a coffee can for the years ahead. Whether or not you donate, please keep Pete and people like him in your thoughts and prayers—it’s hard to see how completely our world is built for the typical until you love someone with a disability.

Donations ()

  • Steven & Pam Dettmar 
    • $40 
    • 25 mos
  • Esther Richey 
    • $100 
    • 26 mos
  • Daniel Rendleman 
    • $50 
    • 26 mos
  • Mychal Powell 
    • $25 
    • 26 mos
  • Donna Steickland 
    • $25 
    • 26 mos
See all

Organizer

Emily Dettmar Dalton 
Organizer
Springfield, MO
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