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A Thankful Thanksgiving

Kayla & Kain

· Autism,Mission Accomplished

Teaching Kayla to independently control and command her autism spectrum service dog, Kain, was half of the battle when the staff trainers at W.A.G.S. 4 Kids started working with Kayla and her parents in 2013 to determine exactly what they wanted, needed and expected from their autism spectrum service dog partnership. These conversations are held long before the magic of the first meeting happens between a child and their service dog. This first conversation is when families can only dream. "We had no idea what Kain would bring to our family, to our daughter." said mom, Brenda. As we like to say here at W.A.G.S. 4 Kids...that's when the "magic" begins.

Kayla has always been a fighter. Kayla was born three weeks early with an 80% heart blockage and had a surgical repair at 2 months weighing only 6 pounds. She was diagnosed with Failure to Thrive as an infant and then with Epilepsy by 2 years of age. By 2.5 years, she was diagnosed with a rare genetic metabolic disorder which caused many severe metabolic crises in her young life. By the time she was 4, Kayla had survived two cardiac arrests, liver and kidney failure, pancreatitis and severe fluctuations in her blood sugar levels. With the diagnosis of Mitochondrial Disease, a Mediport and G-Tube were surgically implanted. "We have since been able to more effectively manage her medical conditions" says mom, Brenda. However, social and behavioral concerns continue to exist and in 2010, Kayla was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and learning disabilities.

"She is TRULY our miracle child!" Brenda exclaims, without hesitation.

To call Kayla "shy" would have been an understatement, when W.A.G.S. staff first met this young lady. When asked, Kayla's parents expressed they simply hoped an Autism Spectrum Service Dog would help Kayla's independence and self-confidence. As Brenda illustrates, "Kayla is a loving child with a big heart and animals can sense this. Often, while in the hospital, Therapy Dogs came to visit. They were such a comfort to Kayla that years later, she remembers their names and how they laid in the bed with her. She loves to ride horses and participates every week at a local Therapeutic Riding Center. It is our hope that a {Autism Spectrum Service} Dog will give Kayla the confidence to play outside on her own with her “pal”. By doing so, she will gain strength and endurance. This special companion will provide unconditional and non-judgmental love and affection that will help Kayla cope with all her difficulties."

It has been 2 years since the day Kayla and Kain were first introduced and to say that their expectations have been met "would be an understatement" says mom with a sly smile. Since that first day meeting Kain in 2014, the shy girl we met can now be heard yelling down the hall for her mother's attention eager to get on with the day's activities. Kain can be seen always ready at her side, her shadow, awaiting his next command. Kayla is fully in control and command of her service dog and off they go to cheer on the Tribe! A crowd of noise and people that Kayla and Kain now take on together, and friends to greet them there when they arrive. "It was like watching a miracle in progress. From day one, Kain has absolutely opened up a new world for her. I am forever grateful to Lisa and Wendy and all the trainers at W.A.G.S. 4 Kids. I am also so excited that we finally were able to finish our family fundraising! Thank you for being so patient with us and helping us brainstorm some fun ways to get there. The staff was always there to support us from every angle."

Click below for a short video shot by Kayla and her mom, Brenda. Don't forget to check back next week for another installment of "A Thankful Thanksgiving"

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