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Service dog aids boy with autism
Reeve Basile has a running habit.
When he feels stress coming on, the 5-year-old Yuba City boy bolts — down the aisles of Walmart, past the lanes of the bowling alley, or out onto Highway 99 — depending on where he happens to be at the time.
And as the child grows increasingly stronger and more agile, his autism becomes more and more difficult to manage.
"We have to basically sleep with one eye open," said his mother, Chris Basile, as Reeve darted through the adults at Nu Generations Bowling Alley in Yuba City Sunday.
Sunday's fundraising event was one of several the family plans to hold on behalf of Reeve, and his new assistant-in-training — a yellow Labrador retriever named Chaz.
The dog, bred in Tehama County by a group that specializes in service animals, was selected especially for Reeve by Carmel Mooney of Pawsitive Service Dog Solutions, a new nonprofit company in Olivehurst.
Child and dog met for the first time this week. Soon, they will be best friends.
All in good time.
On Sunday, Chaz, the dog, lay calmly beneath a chair, and Reeve, the child was unstoppable.
He reads at a third-grade level, his mother explained, and consumes reading material nearly as quickly as he runs.
But he microwaved a cellphone recently, and has exited the family home several times through a dog door.
Something has to change, and quickly, said his mom.
Mooney's new company — which she founded ten months ago with her husband, Bob Mooney — currently has five dogs in some stage of training for service.
They use volunteer puppy raisers who teach basic obedience skills, several professional trainers, and their own training skills over the course of several months to ready them for their final stage of training with their human partner.
"No one in Northern California was serving disabled children," said Mooney of her decision to start PSDS.
Mooney, who holds a doctoral degree in psychology and has published a book on autism, was once in search of a solution for her own problems in managing her autistic daughter's outbursts and quieting her distress.
Only a handful of companies that specialize in training service dogs for the mentally and neurologically disabled exist West of the Mississippi, and the waiting lists for such animals, Mooney said, tend to be long.
But Shadow, the dog she finally acquired for her daughter, changed life for the family dramatically, Mooney said.
The child — now 10 — is safer and more comfortable. Shadow knows when to nudge her, when to apply weight, when to alert an adult.
"It's brought her out of her shell," Mooney said. "And if she does have an outburst how, it's amazingly diminished."
Shadow has also helped educate people about autism, and alerted them to her daughter's disability.
After years of listening to criticism and disdainful comments from strangers about her daughter's behavior, Mooney said, she suddenly found herself in a more sympathetic light.
"It was magical," she said of the positive response the dog generated for both child and parent. "My daughter can enjoy going out with our family now."
Chris Basile found herself on an Internet odyssey several months ago after it occurred to her there might be a service dog somewhere out there for her son.
She had just experienced one in a long series of frightening Reeve-related incidents. This one had the child leaving Toys R Us in a sprint, and straight into traffic on Bridge Street in the dark.
They had gone to the toy store to buy a harness, so that Basile might have a fighting chance of keeping her son close.
"We have to chase him constantly," said Reeve's grandmother, Patty Basile.
Chris Basile's online searches for a service dog company took her across the country. She followed leads and made phone calls, and was resolved to travel to Florida or Ohio and to wind up on a waiting list.
But eventually, she located Mooney, just a short drive away in Yuba County.
"It's unbelievable," Chris Basile said of the find.
Mooney's company charges a total of $8,000 for the dog, training and months of basic care during the process.
PSDS helps organize fundraising events for families like the Basiles who still need to raise most of the money necessary so that Reeve can have his dog.
"The dog will sense when he (Reeve) wants to run, and will lay down," Chris Basile said Sunday.
Nearby, Chaz, the quiet, attentive service-dog-in-training helped advertise the fundraising event in the bowling alley lobby.
Mooney expects the dog to be ready for Reeve by the end of June.
"That dog will go everywhere with him," said Chris Basile. "It's fantastic."
CONTACT Nancy Pasternack at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4781. Find her on Facebook at /ADnpasternack or on Twitter at @ADnpasternack.