Family Raises Funds For Service Dog To Assist Autistic Girl

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An Athens County mother of two is working tirelessly to purchase an animal that could save her daughter's life.

Charla Gretz, the mother of a five-year-old girl with moderate to severe autism, says she has fundraised for the last year and a half to purchase a service dog for her daughter, Shyanna.

“Shyanna is what’s known as a runner or a bolter. She can undo any lock in our house, disable the alarms, so the dog would be trained to track her in case in the middle of the night, the unthinkable does happen,” Gretz said.

The Gretz family raised $13,000 of the $22,000 that it takes to train a service dog, but before they can bring the dog home, they must raise at least $3,000 more to undergo 10 days of training in Xenia, OH.

The family will spend nine days with the dog in June of next year to help Shyanna form a bond with the animal and to train it.

“Every day, just about, she asks to look at the training page on [4 Paws for Ability’s] website and she loves to look at the dogs. ‘I wonder if I’ll get this one, mommy, I wonder if I’ll get that one.’ So it’s kind of neat,” Gretz said.

Gretz said the dog will calm her daughter when she is distressed and hopes it will also help perfect her social skills.

“Some kids look at her a little different because when they ask for her name she doesn’t always respond,” Gretz said, “It’s a big challenge because to watch your kid run up to somebody in the park and not be able to communicate with them.”

Shyanna says she hopes to name her new dog Swissroll.