Above , Landon feeds his new service dog a treat at the Harold Lewis Center playground Friday morning. Below, Theo watches over Logan while he swings at the Harold Lewis Center playground Friday morning.
(Journal-Tribune photos by Georgia Davis)
Therapy dog a godsend for mother of twin boys with autism
Since 2013 Carrie Beebe has lived afraid.
That was the year her son, Logan, was diagnosed with autism. Four months later his twin brother, Landon, received the same diagnosis.
Since then, Beebe hasn’t been able to shake the fear that her sons would leave her sight and something bad would happen. Violent tendencies from the now 6-year-olds, coupled with rigorous school and therapy schedules had worn the young mother down.
She needed help, so a year ago she signed a contract with Service Dogs for Warren Retrievers, a non-profit organization that trains golden and Labrador retrievers to assist people with disabilities, a year ago. Beebe considered buying a service dog for her sons sooner, but the $25,000 pledge seemed daunting.
“I kind of just didn’t (go through with it) because I thought to myself there would be no way I was ever going to be able to raise that much money on my own,” Beebe said. “I’m just a regular person. I don’t have a big crazy name or a lot of money.”
Wednesday, Beebe was finally able to introduce her sons to Theo, a long-haired golden retriever and newest addition to their family.
But the road to that day was a long one, filled with fundraising, training and preparing for a life with a little bit of normalcy.
Beebe started the fundraising process in July of 2016 after signing the contract.
The first fundraiser she hosted was a paint night with some women in Marysville. Though the fundraiser was successful, Beebe realized there was “such a long way to go,” she said.
Beebe posted a donor page where she received a lot of private donations and also held a golf outing at Buck Ridge Golf Course. She had about half of the money she needed when she learned about the Dot’s Tots Foundation.
Dot’s Tots is a Hilliard-based non-profit that provides a variety of assistance to children and families in the area.
When Dot’s Tots first got involved, it donated $5,000 right off the bat, Beebe said. Since then, Beebe, her fiancée Matt Taylor and the twins have been close with the members of the organization, even considering them family.
Lydia Cleaver-Bartholomew of Dot’s Tots said the foundation is “hands on in general” when it comes to supporting its families.
“A lot of the families we work with, we do form very close, personal relationships with,” Cleaver-Bartholomew said. “Because it is a small organization, we only work with a couple of people at a time, so it kind of naturally works out that way.”
One of the Dot’s Tots events was monumental for Beebe and her family. The organization told Beebe if she could get 15 people to a social fundraiser it was hosting, the group would donate another $5,000. At that point, Beebe only needed about $8,000.
When Beebe and Taylor arrived at the November members of the organization presented them with a check to cover the remaining cost of the service dog.
“I had hit that point where I was like ‘I can’t do this,’” she said, wiping away tears. “I was fundraising and trying to parent and working part time. … It was difficult.”
Beebe said she just needed the help of an organization to make the dream for her children come true. In the end, Dot’s Tots covered more than half of cost of the dog, but Beebe said the local community also embraced her family’s struggle.
“If I wasn’t in Marysville, I don’t know that I would’ve had the success that I did have because Marysville is a community,” Beebe said.
By the time Beebe acquired all of the money, Theo was just a puppy.
From the age of four months, Theo was trained in basic commands. A few months before being placed with Logan and Landon, the dog was taken back to Service Dogs for Warren Retrievers in Madison, Virginia, where his training was fine-tuned.
Beebe chose the organization because of its catered training program. When a dog is placed with a family, a trainer stays with them for a few days to help acclimate the service dog.
Service Dogs for Warren Retrievers raises golden retrievers and labs because people are used to seeing those types of dogs.
“They are not threatening in public. If someone sees a golden or a lab, it’s not a scary dog to most people as opposed to the bigger German shepard or dogs that way,” Erin Gray, a senior trainer with Service Dogs for Warren Retrievers, said. “They’re just great family dogs.”
Gray has been with the family since Theo’s arrival Wednesday. The family has gone on outings to get used to handling the dog in public.
“We come to the family in their environment and we do a continued training program for the success of customization for each family,” Gray said.
Gray said Theo is already watching out for the twins, which is one of the aspects that makes her job rewarding.
Life with Theo
Beebe said she can already see the impact Theo is having on the twins. On the family’s way home from Rural King on Wednesday, Logan was able to remain calm when Landon was upset.
Logan tends to self-injure, Beebe said, but with Theo around, the dog will help him stay calm. In the future, Beebe hopes to teach Theo how to take commands from the communication device Logan uses because he is nonverbal. The twins can also be tethered to Theo in public to prevent them from running away.
“I can take them out in public by myself now,” Beebe said. “We can do things like go to the zoo or go to the grocery store.”
Beebe said she is looking forward to planning her wedding, which she has not really started due to all the work it took to bring Theo into the home. Taylor and Beebe got engaged at a Dot’s Tots event in December.
The wedding will happen in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Theo is going to be the ring bearer and Logan and Landon will give Beebe away. Beebe will have peace of mind knowing Theo will keep a close watch on the twins while she and Taylor celebrate their big day.
She said each day now offers more opportunities to live.
“It’s going to improve — not just my quality of life and Matt’s quality of life — but theirs,” Beebe said. “Now they can go out and start experiencing the world more.”
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