Submitted to The Record
Christmas came early for seven-year-old valley resident, Reed Podolinsky.
After a three-year process, which included interviews, training, and fundraising, National Service Dog Sparky arrived Nov. 28 to begin his career as an autism service dog.
Upon hearing some amazing life-changing stories about the benefits of a service dog for autistic children, the family contacted various organizations, many with long or frozen wait lists, and National Service Dogs based in Ontario stood out for their well-documented success.
One of the pioneers in the training of service dogs specifically for individuals with autism, the organization’s success has seen the trend take off and now many organizations over the world are training autism service dogs. Valued at $30,000 over their working life, dogs such as Sparky are provided free of charge to approved families, excluding the cost for a week of team training and various equipment.
The Podolinskys wanted to give back to the organization, which is a charity that relies on donations and sponsorships.
Reed’s older brother Noah started his own business making and selling dog biscuits, and donated 50 per cent of the profit to the cause.
Family, friends and coworkers helped fundraise on Reed’s behalf.
The family is very thankful of all the support from the community in helping to make this happen, especially Sunrise Veterinarian Clinic, Puntledge Veterinarian Clinic, Courtenay Veterinary, Van Isle Vet, Phoenix Rising Vet, Bosley’s Pet Foods, Mudsharks Coffee, YANA, the Staff of St. Joseph’s Nutritional Services Department and Christ the King Parish.
As an autism service dog, Sparky has a very important job. He is trained to keep Reed safe by use of a tether that anchors Reed to him, as Reed sometimes will wander or bolt in certain situations.
The dog also helps to provide deep pressure, something many autistic people crave and helps to calm them. As many of the NSD’s successful stories go, the family hopes that as Reed and Sparky’s bond grows, Sparky will provide a constant calming influence and friendship unmatched by anyone.
Legally, the team has full public access rights, and a few things to keep in mind if you see the team together:
• Please do not engage the animal as it distracts the dog from its job, which is to be always focused on the handler. This includes petting, feeding, eye contact and hand gestures.
• Put the person first and ignore the animal.
• Please teach your children that these dogs are working dogs and they do not have the same rules as family pets.
“We are still getting used to each other and it will take time for the bond to form, but so far we are thrilled with the positive changes we are seeing everyday,” says mom. “Our whole family has fallen in love with Sparky and we are so happy we have this fantastic opportunity.”
The Podolinskys’ fundraiser for National Service Dogs is ongoing and there are several ways to donate:
“Paws for Reed” #358 at the Courtenay Return-it Centre.
Noah’s ReBARKable treats will be available for a limited time at Van Isle Vet and Mudshark’s Coffee Bar.
You can also donate to National Service Dogs online at bit.ly/1OFwTcD