What We Do
Imagine being able to transform someone’s life with the gift of independence. That is what a professionally trained Guide Dog or Autism Support Dog can do for someone who is blind or visually impaired, or a child with moderate to severe autism.
Take a moment and visualize the benefits these service dogs give their recipients on a day-to-day basis; increased safety, enhanced mobility, facilitated safe navigation and freedom and confidence to explore for blind/visually-impaired individuals.
For a child with autism, increased safety, positive changes in behaviour, improved social skills, more predictability in social situations, increased security and support for the child, improved sleeping habits and much more are possible. The entire family benefits. Having an Autism Support Dog means being able to do simple things the rest of us take for granted, like going to the supermarket, the mall or the park as a family. In essence, it means being able to experience childhood, instead of missing out.
Alberta Guide Dog Services is a division of British Columbia Guide Dog Services (a registered charity). Our mission is to meet the growing demand for professionally trained Guide Dogs and Autism Support Dogs for citizens of Alberta. Each puppy born through our in-house breeding program has the potential to grow up to change someone’s life.
Although often viewed as a dog organization, BC & Alberta Guide Dogs is actually an organization about people. When evaluating applicants’ suitability for Guide Dog or Autism Support Dog training, we see ability rather than disability. All training programs are tailored to the needs of each individual, which includes domiciliary (at-home) training in the client’s familiar environment. While our services are provided at no cost to recipients, it takes two years and up to $35,000 to breed, raise and train one of these furry heroes-in-the-making. We are not government funded and rely on the generosity of donors, as well as special events and fundraisers, for funding.
Sawyer, Ryker & Autism Support Dog Roman:
Roman joined our family summer 2016 and our lives have been forever changed. Our story, like many, includes sadness, fear, helplessness and uncertainty but is filled with joy, happiness, love, and hope. We are a mommy, daddy and two beautiful boys, Sawyer and Ryker. Our boys are very different but share their love of video games, toys, music, being active, animals and nature, they also both have ASD.
At young ages we learned neither Sawyer or Ryker understood the concept of personal safety and had the tendency to “bolt”. Bolting or running off happens in an instant with no predictability and can be triggered by anything and for reasons we don’t always understand. Struggles with social situations, anxiety, and sensory challenges also impact our day to day lives. The boys need 1:1 support outside of our home, if 2 adults aren’t available we can’t go out which can be very isolating at times.
The first time we met Roman, Ryker got upset about something, ran to his room, and without a word Roman followed, put his head down, Ryker wrapped his arms around Roman’s neck for a hug and you could feel Ryker exhale. The following week when Laura called to tell us Roman would join our family, well…it’s impossible to describe how that made us feel.
Roman works with both of our boys which is a BC & Alberta Guide Dogs, Autism Support Dog division first, a special dog and 2 very special trainers. Laura and Nic, they didn’t just train us how to work with Roman, they did so much more, more than they probably realize, these two simply amazing women had an impact of our whole family in a very positive way.
Graduation for us was 3 weeks, 3 days ago. What has changed? Everything.
I could explain in detail how Roman makes us feel, that all of us have less anxiety, that with Roman I can take the boys out on my own so we aren’t isolated anymore, how we’ve gone places we could never go before and done things we didn’t think we could do, but instead I’ll share words from our family over the past weeks…
“I don’t feel sad and angry anymore, how does Roman make it so I’m not sad and angry?”, “Can I go swimming at the dog park today?”, “Roman made it so I could button up a shirt! I never did that before! Can you believe it!”, “Can I feed Roman his breakfast?”, “He’s so cute”,”How do I hold the bag? And pick it up? It smells, dog poo is gross, adults should do this only”, “We never went for walks here before!”, “Roman, you’re my bestest friend ever”, “We need to clean our toys up so Roman doesn’t eat them”, “What adventure are we going on today?”, “Are Laura and Nic going to come to my birthday party?”, “I’m glad Roman keeps me safe because you know what? I don’t know why I run away I can’t help it”, “I love him so much”, “Can we go to Disneyland tomorrow because we have Roman now?”. “I feel like I can breathe for the first time in years”, “I never knew he could change things this much and I could love a dog this much”, “How is thank you to everybody involved in bringing Roman into our lives ever enough?”.
“This is Roman, he’s our Autism Support Dog, me and my brother have autism and he helps make us safe”. “You know what Roman does? He makes my heart happy”.
BC & Alberta Guide Dogs, Autism Support Dog Team #37 – Roman, Sawyer, Ryker, Mommy and Daddy, our family of 5 with thanks and gratitude to all involved in the process of bringing Roman into our lives.