Here at Kurgo, we are inspired by the many organizations who work tirelessly, day in and day out, to improve the lives of dogs in their local communities. We created the Kurgo Foundation in order to give back to these dedicated animal advocates in ways that help them further their missions. The Kurgo Foundation’s primary purpose is to support nonprofits who identify and focus on creating long term and positive impacts in the lives and welfare of dogs.
Although every one of the Foundation’s grantees provides exceptional services for dogs in need, we wanted to shine a spotlight onto the great work of one of our 2019 award recipients, BluePath Service Dogs. They are a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide autism service dogs to children, offering safety, companionship, and opportunities for independence.
BluePath uses the Kurgo Grant towards their Autism Service Dog Training and Placement Program, which covers everything from puppy raising to service dog placement. They start training puppies with basic obedience skills when they are just 8 weeks old. Next, they move on to a formal training program where they learn the skills needed to become service dogs—like “anchoring,” when a dog stops a child from wandering or bolting, or “visit,” where a dog rests his head on a child for support. Dogs who pass the program will then graduate and be placed in a family with a child with autism.
What can a service dog do for a family in need? Here are the stories from three families whose lives have changed since receiving a BluePath service dog for their child:
The Flaherty Family
“Kaitlin was nine when she first bolted from me and was almost hit by a car. Her bolting had become a big problem and I was overcome with worry and fear, wondering how I was going to protect her. As a result, autism began to imprison my family as we dreaded leaving the house.
“We began to live life again when Kaitlin received her first service dog. He kept her safe and provided her with companionship and enhanced independence. Children thought it was cool to have such a special dog; they would stop the pair to say hello and ask questions, which lifted her spirits, as she was now communicating and building social skills.
“We feel so blessed to have Chester as Kaitlin’s new service dog. It’s heartwarming to see her smile again after just a couple of weeks with Chester by her side and we are relieved she will once again be safe.
“Chester gives our family the courage to stand up to autism and return to a sense of normalcy. There is no price to attach to a parent’s peace of mind that comes with an autism service dog… Quite frankly, BluePath saved our lives.” – Nancy Flaherty
The Hughes-Grabstein Family
“When we received autism service dog Sanders, we immediately felt a happiness and an ease descend upon our family and household that had never been present before. We were able to venture out as a foursome, with Sanders leading the way. “After Sanders passed away, we thought that maybe we did not need another service dog. Then came Easter weekend, when Matt bolted from our backyard during a family gathering onto the busy streets of our town. He was missing for ten minutes. Picture 23 frantic family members running in four different directions to find our child.
“We applied for another service dog after realizing how much Sanders had truly changed our lives. Without him as our anchor, we were once again feeling trapped in our home and full of fear about Matt’s safety. Our family felt incomplete; service dogs don’t cure autism, but they absolutely heal families that are struggling.
“Receiving Benni instantly made a positive impact on our family. Matt loves holding onto Benni versus having us hold onto him. We see the pride on his face as they walk together through the world. If Matt could speak, we are certain he would say thank you for his increased independence. His brother Danny is thankful for a new best friend, and my husband and I are grateful that Benni keeps Matt safe while profoundly improving all of our lives.” – Nancy Hughes-Grabstein
The Millman Family
"Without BluePath service dog Clancy, I wouldn't be home right now to write this... I'd be at the hospital at best. My son Alex ran from our car in a crowded parking lot this afternoon. Without being given a command, Clancy dropped down and stopped Alex as a car came speeding down the row. We are indebted to BluePath for keeping Alex safe. Mixed into Clancy's bowl tonight was a little extra kibble and a couple of tears.
“Alex is 13 years old. His autism makes it difficult to communicate and to understand and navigate the world. He was three years old the first time he bolted, and we found him in a park three blocks away. From that moment on, one of us would stay home with Alex and our family became fractured. “Then we received service dog Jett and he glued us back together. We could all go to the library, the grocery store or the mall and Alex would be safe. Jett retired and we were given BluePath Clancy, who will allow us to travel around the country to visit Alex’s brothers and sisters.
“These are ordinary experiences, yet they would be impossible without an autism service dog by our sides. We are so very grateful for our ordinary days… For us, they are truly extraordinary.” – Sandi Millman
Thank you to BluePath Service Dogs for providing us with the imagery and stories above. To learn more about their programs, and discover ways that you can volunteer or help out, please visit their website and FAQ page here.