At just a year old, Garrett Tingum began exhibiting developmental delays, says his mother Caroline. “We could tell he was slipping away,” she says, adding that they were acutely aware of his condition even before his doctors were. At 19 months, he was diagnosed with severe autism, but his condition isn’t limited to the one. He has also been diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy, which affects his muscle strength; apraxia, which affects his motor skills; and pica, an eating disorder defined by a craving for non-edible items like paper or sand. The culmination of all of these things, his mother explains, requires that he has around the clock adult supervision to ensure he isn’t putting himself in harm’s way.
So for Garrett’s parents, Bruce and Caroline, inviting a service dog to join their family has been a blessing. Non-profit Tender Loving Canines paired the Tingums with Ruby, who has been instrumental in helping Garrett do normal things like taking walks with Ruby’s guidance. Because Garrett frequently wanders off or hides, Ruby is also helpful in locating him safely. And for the Tingums and their three children, they have the added benefit of a therapy dog’s calming presence.
“For the whole family it’s been a real positive effect,” says Caroline. “Our future is much brighter now that we’ve got Ruby in the family.”
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