Family to hold fundraiser to buy service dog

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- Like any normal 7-year-old boy, Adams Garrett wants a dog. But not just any dog. Adams, who has been diagnosed with eight different developmental disorders, wants a service dog.

Adams' mother, Albany native Erica Garrett, said her second oldest child was born with multiple disabilities and genetic abnormalities and feels that a service dog would help her child become more independent and social.

Adam's has been diagnosed with cranio-cervical stenosis that results in the bones in his neck at the base of his brain are narrow and slightly pinch his spinal cord. Adams has also been diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy, moderate to severe hearing loss, of which he relies upon a hearing aid, autism and XXY syndrome or Klinefelter's syndrome.

Garrett said the idea to try to raise money for the purchase of a service dog for Adams came from her aunt, who is blind and has always enjoyed the assistance of her service dogs.

The mother of four, who currently lives in Oxford, said the family believes a service dog for Adams would change his life.

"My aunt is blind so she always had them and I know what they can do," said Garrett. "I think Adams wants to be more independent and I think we will all be a lot more relaxed if we have a dog that we know can be with Adams at all times and help him."

Garrett said one of her greatest fears is that Adams, who does not sleep well at night, will get out of the house while the family is sleeping and get lost.

"One of the things about being autistic is that you are not stupid," she said. "Adams knows how to unlock doors and how to punch in a password on a security system because he has watched me do it. We have heard horror stories about other children who have wandered off."

The family has already located a company that specializes in training service dogs for children like Adams. Highland Canine Training in North Carolina trains service dogs for people living with disabilities and also trains police dogs.

"They (Highland Canine Training) are amazing and they really want to know what you need. They will be able to train a dog tailor-made to Adams needs," said Garrett.

Highland Canine Training could not be reached for comment but according to information from the training center's website, service dogs trained to work with autistic children can be trained to locate children who might run away and hide, recognize and redirect repetitive behavior by gently nudging the child and can increase social interaction with others.

"One of the hardest things is when we are at Wal-Mart most of our time is spent trying to keep him with us because he walks off. If we had a service dog and we are in a store or outside and Adams runs off the dog will be able to track him or stop Adams from running off," said Garrett.

Adams mother said she also hopes that the dog will be able to comfort Adams during the night and help him stay asleep.

"A lot of these kids (with autism) like pressure on them when they are sleeping," said Garrett. "I guess it makes them feel safer, so the dog could be trained to keep up on the bed with Adams and lay on his legs or beside."

The family said they will be conducting several fundraisers in Oxford and Albany to try and raise funds to purchase a service dog for Adams.

A website has been created where people can donate money that will go towards the purchase of a service dog for Adams. The service dog plus training will cost the family approximately $8,900. The website is http://adamsdog.chipin.com/my-sons-service-dog.

Garrett said she hopes a service dog will help Adams interact more with children at school and help ease the family's minds.

"A lot of people have asked me why don't I just get a therapy dog for $200 and I tell them that I'm not getting a therapy dog, I'm getting a service dog that will not only provide comfort but will be trained to assist my son," said the mother of four.

For more information about the Garrett's fundraising efforts or how else you can donate contact (678) 658-6896 or e-mail Garrett at egarrett06@yahoo.com.