Updated Sun, Aug 3, 2014 4:40 pm
An Athens County family that was successful in raising funds to get a service dog for their autistic daughter is now looking to do the same for their 5-year-old son.
As The Messenger previously reported, Charla and Timothy Gretz of The Plains were able to get a service dog for their daughter Shyanna (who will be entering second grade this fall) last summer after two years of fundraising and waiting. Shyanna was diagnosed with autism in 2009 at the age of 3. Her condition caused her to have behavior disruptions and to wander off.
Since the family welcomed Spring, a black Labrador retriever, into their home, Charla said the family’s daily life drastically improved. Spring was able to help Shyanna by comforting her when she got upset and is able to track her if she wanders off. Charla said that Spring was also trained to alert the family of seizures, something they didn’t realize Shyanna was experiencing until Spring alerted them to the condition.
While things are going well with Shyanna and Spring, the family is now seeking the same solace for their 5-year-old son Conner. The soon-to-be kindergartener has been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder.
Conner’s big sister also has SPD, but Charla said her children’s personalities are vastly different — Shyanna is an “avoider” while Conner is a “seeker.”
“Seekers tend to get labeled as fussy, sensitive, picky, or spoiled,” she said. “Day-to-day life can be hard because Conner never slows down, even when he is sick. It took months to find out a weird rash he had was because of mono because he didn’t show the signs (of excessive fatigue).”
Charla said Conner “runs circles” around Shyanna and Spring, who value their quiet time.
According to Charla, Conner’s symptoms have worsened since he’s gotten older. She said they didn’t think about getting Conner a service dog until they went to Xenia, Ohio to get Spring. There she said she saw dogs who were trained for children with ADHD and behavioral disorders.
“The dogs were able to get the kids calmed down and to focus,” she said.
At the time, Shyanna needed a service dog more than her younger brother.
“She can live like a normal kid now, but we don’t have that option with Conner,” Charla said. “We have to find a babysitter for him so we can go grocery shopping.”
Charla said that Conner has a tendency to run out in parking lots and roads, putting him in danger. She said a service dog of his own could help keep Conner calm and out of harm’s way.
“This dog would help in so many ways. One to be to help the SPD by giving him sensory input by laying on him or laying his or her head on him,” Charla said. “Another way is behavior disruption and tethering, keeping Conner from running into dangerous places like the road or a parking lot.”
The Gretz family has just started fundraising to get a trained service dog for Conner from 4 Paws for Ability in Xenia — the same organization that connected Spring and Shyanna. The cost to get a service dog from the organization is $22,000, of which $13,000 must be raised by the family.
“If Conner’s dog can do for him what Spring has done for Shyanna, it would be life-changing for our whole family,” Charla said.
Those wanting to make a donation can do so online at www.razoo.com/story/4-Paws-For-Conner-Gretz or send a check to 4 Paws for Ability, 253 Dayton Ave., Xenia, Ohio 45385 with “Conner Gretz” written on the memo line.