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On July 13, 2007, our son Landon was born and diagnosed with Down Syndrome. This lifechanging news came less than 24 hrs. after the passing of Landon’s maternal grandmother. Although surrounded by family and friends, we needed time alone to process this unexpected news. After a sleepless night full of prayer and long discussions, we were determined to make sure Landon lived a productive and fulfilling life. In typical fashion the support from family and friends was overwhelming as we shared the news. Over the next few years we began to learn more about the joys and challenges associated with Down Syndrome.
One morning, after watching a news story that aired about a child with special abilities who had been paired with a service dog, we began researching how this might impact our son’s life. Despite research that had demonstrated countless benefits from service dogs in children with special abilities, Down Syndrome was not among the covered diagnoses for any support groups associated with service dogs. This was very disheartening because we feel that Down Syndrome does not define Landon. We also felt that he deserved to benefit from a service dog like many other kids were doing. We began to seek out a facility that shared our vision of pairing service dogs with any child with a special ability that could benefit from their companionship. This search eventually lead us Smeraglia Teddy Bear English Golden Doodles. Carol and the Smeraglia staff were excited to work with us to identify, to train, and to provide safety for our son. After learning how costly service dogs are, we decided that our rural community could benefit from an organization that could help make this dream a reality. Landon’s Helping Paws was then created out of this strong desire to pair services dogs with kids who have special abilities.
Landon has received physical, occupational, and speech therapy since birth. Despite this intensive therapy, Landon still has very little verbal communication and the gap between him and his peers continues to widen. After six months of discussion and temperament testing of several litters, Landon’s service dog, Raja, was selected; and she began training in the fall of 2011. Our family was blessed when Carol arrived with Raja in October of 2012. Since her arrival, we have seen several benefits for Landon which include increased confidence, vocabulary, and social interaction, to name a few. As Landon and Raja walk with us in stores we have been brought to tears seeing him and this huge sense of accomplishment. Landon has a forever friend that is completely in love with him. We look forward to sharing with you additional victories as Landon and Raja continue their journey together. We believe that, “With God All Things Are Possible” Matthew 19:26.