By: Jim Zuegel
My daughter Devon and I originally raised Oakland as puppy raisers for Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB). Oakland ended up being career-changed and since our teenage son Jeffrey is on the autism spectrum, we considered looked for an Autism Service Dog organization for Oakland.
Paws As Loving Support (PALS) was an organization willing to take a career-change; plus, it also happened to be a program located within a reasonable distance from our home.
Nancy Pierson, the President/CEO, founded PALS and the Service PALS program to help children with autism and their families to assist with daily needs, both in the home and community. Nancy was flexible and very accommodating to schedule visits to our home so she could learn more about Jeffrey and his special needs, develop a program specifically for Oakland and our family to meet Jeffrey's needs, and then successfully take us through training and the certification process.
My son Jeffrey benefits from being able to bring Oakland everywhere as his service dog; to paraphrase his big sister, Devon, “Jeffrey is calmer because he can bring a comforting piece of home with him.” This is important because Jeffrey previously had severe behavioral outbursts in unfamiliar public situations or darted away without warning. In public, Jeffrey is now connected to Oakland with a harness and therefore cannot “disappear”; furthermore, Jeffrey holds a leash with his left hand and has the responsibility of being mindful of Oakland's safety and well-being, as well as his own (with me holding a separate leash to supervise both of them). Since Jeffrey has delayed speech development, he works with Oakland to improve his verbal skills by giving timely and appropriate commands; Jeffrey also has learned and uses commands to practice being responsible, for example: feeding Oakland, and putting him into a “curb” position when he approaches or tries to cross a street. One of the last things Jeffrey does every night is to have Oakland lie on or against his legs in bed; this has a calming effect and helps Jeffrey to fall asleep. Thank you to GDB and PALS for our special dog Oakland.
See Oakland and Jeffrey in action in this YouTube video:
To learn more about Paws As Loving Support (PALS) Assistance Dogs visit: