Red Bluff, CALIF. - Your dog is part of your family. And a NorthState non-profit is now training dogs to help make life easier for families with autistic children and chronic disease.
The dogs are being trained west of Red Bluff at Remedy Retrievers by Caleb and Toby Anderson. The dogs are all chosen through a strict set of rules which ensures they'll be the best dogs for the job.
"It's a huge task, but it's worth it," says Remedy Retrievers founder Caleb Anderson. "You need dogs that are calm, confident and assertive to be a confident service dog."
The dogs are also used to help calm down autistic children and families of diabetic and seizure stricken children.
The dogs go through at least a year of intense training which starts around six weeks with basic obedience training. Dogs who are chosen for service duty are brought back for another round of training when they're about a year old. That training gets into more difficult tasks like diffusing emotional situations with autistic children and detecting when seizures and diabetic emergencies are imminent.
The dogs can be trained to help autistic children from being overwhelmed. They are trained to help keep them from hurting themselves.
"Autistic children, typically when they become over stimulated by the outside environment, are prone to bolting," says Caleb. "They will run in any direction and it doesn't matter what's in front of them or behind them."
The dogs are trained to drop to the ground and not move if their harness is jerked. That helps keep the child from running into a dangerous situation like into traffic or into a body of water.
Toby Anderson is co-founder of Remedy Retrievers and says it's a lot of work but the rewards outweigh the effort "especially for the families that are receiving the dogs."
They say the best part is seeing the effects these dogs have on the kid's lives.
"After placement of these dogs," says Caleb, "the bolting, the repetitive behaviors and melt downs start to decrease."
And the quality of life for the children increases. Caleb says he's seen autistic children much more confident after getting a service dog.
Their most difficult process is actually just letting go of the dogs they've poured more than a year's hard work into. But once you see what it means to the families everything is worth it.
"I love it," says head trainer Meghan Mosher. "I get to see what I've done to help other people and that's the best part about it."
Only 20-40% of the puppies are selected for the service program. That leaves 60-80% of the puppies free for adoption, and any adoption fees go directly to helping Remedy Retrievers do good for NorthState families with autistic children and people afflicted with seizures and diabetes.