An Okotoks family is hoping to raise some money for a service dog.

Six-year-old Owen Robinson is one of seven siblings in his family and has been diagnosed with autism.

“He has autism, he has behavioral issues, and just last year he was diagnosed with an eye condition where he doesn’t see red, yellow, green, or any blues with a green undertone. We’re looking into getting home a service dog because Owen likes to run off when we’re out in public. He doesn’t get to come to grocery stores, we don’t go to the zoo, we don’t go anywhere as a family because he is a flight risk,” says his mother Rayelle.

Unsure what to do, Rayelle took her concerns to Owen‘s pediatrician, who then recommended a service dog.

Unfortunately, they’re having to seek an expensive route and are under somewhat of a time constraint.

“Since COVID came, all the agencies that are fully funded kept assessing patients during COVID but stopped breeding and stopped training. Now they aren’t accepting applications and as a child with autism, you have to have your first service dog by age seven or you’ve aged out. You can always get another dog if your dog gets sick or retires but you have to have your first one by the time you’re seven.”

They’re now trying to get Owen an Aspen Service Dog, though they came with some significant expenses.

One aspect of their service Rayelle is particularly keen on is their owner-trained program, where dogs train with their human at just nine weeks old, meaning Owen would be able to start a bond with the dog immediately.

Rayelle says it would help him in his day-to-day life in a few ways.

“The dog can be trained for curb awareness which will be really great for Owen’s safety. They’re good with social interaction, children with autism don’t pick up on social cues so the dog will help him socially. They’re trained that if Owen goes into a meltdown or is overstimulated, the dog will give him a hug with pressure from the dog’s body weight helping to bring him down. If I’m not there that would be very beneficial.”

The Robinsons are hoping to raise $5,000 now, and another $6,385 by this time next year.

“This dog would change our lives; it’d be everything for Owen. It’d be so nice to take him out to the zoo in the summer or go to Calaway Park with the family rather than ‘where’s Owen? Oh, Owen’s gone, we have to pack up and go.’’’

A family friend started a fundraiser page for the Robinsons, which can be seen here.