Romeo

Trained Autism Response Service Dog to help young girl in Pepperell, MA

June 17 is a special day for nine-year old Olivia of Pepperell, MA, as Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers delivers her Autism Service Dog “Romeo” today.  Based in Madison, Virginia, Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers has a mission to provide specially-bred and trained dogs for adults and children with invisible disabilities like Diabetes, PTSD, Seizure Disorders, or in the case of Olivia—Autism Spectrum Disorder.   Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers, “SDWR” has almost 600 service dogs working across the US and around the globe.  SDWR is currently serving almost 1,000 families.

Romeo, a golden retriever Autism Service Dog, has already received thousands of hours of training through SDWR’s puppy raiser training program where volunteers raise puppies in training for about a period of one year and then through the foundation and skill set training provided through SDWR trainers at the facility in Virginia.  Romeo will continue to learn under the careful guidance of a certified trainer from SDWR and through the rapport he develops with Olivia and her mother, Jill.

Olivia has a complex set of challenges in her young life.  She was diagnosed with Autism at three years of age and she experiences seizures as well.  Challenges that Olivia faces with her Autism include anxiety, severe social anxiety and elopement.  These are but a few of the common challenges of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism service dogs are trained to prevent elopement.   Olivia will be tethered to Romeo whenever she is out in public places and Romeo is trained to not allow Olivia to move away from her mother.

New scientific research studies into Autism therapy provide positive evidence of the difference a service dog can make.    Dan Warren states, “The studies showed children experienced better sleep patterns, exhibited greater communication and social interaction, and had less frustration when around their service dog.”  One of the main goals when training an Autism service dog is the need to keep a child safe and calm. According to Mr. Warren, “the studies further found that safety aspect was a huge relief for families as parents’ anxiety over their child can lead to social isolation.”  

With the arrival of Romeo, Olivia and her mom will have yet another tool, a four-legged one that has received training to assist her to live a happier and more enriching life.   Since Romeo is a service dog and covered under laws in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, he will be able to accompany Olivia everywhere—from restaurants to shopping to eventually going to school with her every day. 

Romeo will continue to work with the SDWR trainers and with Olivia and her mom in their home to learn new skills to assist Olivia as well as to achieve public access certification.  Certification must be achieved by Romeo and his handler—in this case Olivia’s mother.  Dan Warren is quick to point out that, “all the incredible services these dogs can provide are through progression, hard work and dedication of the organization and the family who must work together to build on training foundations and fundamentals.  This is about an 18-month program for follow up and customization training.”

What sets SDWR apart from other non-profit service dog organizations are the customized training methods and SDWR matches dogs to their “person.”  According to Dan Warren, “that important bonding time between dog and person can begin to happen right away.  For nearly a decade we’ve been utilizing this method of dog placement and we’ve achieved amazing results.” 

Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers is a non-profit organization based in Madison, Virginia, and relies on donations to help the Organization in its mission, “Until there’s a cure…there’s a dog.”  To make or donation or learn more about SDWR, please visit the website, http://www.sdwr.org. To learn more about Autism Service Dogs visit http://www.sdwr.org/service-dogs/autism/.  To find out how you can volunteer as a puppy raiser visit http://www.sdwr.org/volunteer-opportunities/ .

Source: Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers