This journey began as a mother’s quest, my quest, to keep my 3-year-old son with Autism and ADHD alive without medicating him. My name is Margaret Keymetian Ng. My son Ethan is bigger than life: fearless, friendly, and in constant motion; he never stops moving. However, this is coupled with a lack of understanding about his surroundings and limited understanding of cause and effect. My quest began the day Ethan ran into a busy street and was almost hit by a car. In addition, at the time, Ethan was nonverbal (he had no real way to communicate effectively) and required constant vigilance to keep him safe. He would frequently tantrum and was unable to sleep more than 60-90 minutes at a clip. My marriage had become strained and my 10-year-old daughter had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety largely because her parents were so busy trying to keep Ethan alive that she felt all but forgotten. Desperate to find the kind of 24/7 assistance we needed, I began to research options.
An internet search led me to Autism Medical Service Dogs: a relatively new addition to the service dog community. A Purdue study showed that: children with these dogs statistically had a 70% greater chance at speech; they slept better with a companion beside them; transitions were easier so less tantrums ensued; and children like my son who were a flight risk and trained to tether walk with their dog were much safer. The dogs in turn were trained to: keep their child out of the street and out of harm's way; should the child get out without the tether, the dog was trained to herd the child back to its parents; and in the event the child became lost, the dog could assist in search and rescue. There was only one catch: the dogs cost $47,000 - $60,000.
In fact, I was shocked to learn that all Service Dogs do. That is because it takes 3 years to fully train and certify a Service Dog: they are safeguarding a life and may never, ever, lose focus or make a mistake. The blind, the deaf, and physically disabled have no idea what I am talking about because between grant money and insurance subsidies their dogs are free or practically free. Anyone with an "invisible" disability (seizures, diabetes, PTSD, autism, etc.) has to raise the money to pay for their dogs in full.
It is worth it to clarify I am discussing Medical Service Dogs and NOT therapy or companion animals.
Also, any "free" service dog companies that possess metrics such as a success rate of only 3 out of 10 dogs, or have a 3+ year waiting list were not considered options for us at the time.
The Hope for Ethan: A Dog for Ethan Campaign was born. It took our family, with the help of quite a few friends, neighbors, and wonderful civic organizations 14 months to raise the money in a grassroots campaign. I personally spoke at every engagement I could and we put up booths at any fair that would have us. I am thrilled and excited to announce that our new Autism Medical Service Dog, Yazzie, came home on November 17, 2017. He arrived in style: in a fire truck escorted by the New Vernon police, fire, and EMS. Even our mayor was present. Every major individual contributor or organization was invited to join us on delivery day to witness Ethan meeting his dog for the very first time. Both CBS and ABC were on site to record the event and our story went National!
And for me? I humbly thank God for the kindness of strangers, and the amazing grace of a dog: that it can make such a difference in our lives. I am looking forward to giving my daughter and marriage the attention they need, and to the first good nights sleep in over 4 years.