Aubrey, a smart and fun-loving little girl, was introduced to W.A.G.S. 4 Kids in December 2017. At only 16 months old, Aubrey began therapy services to assist with her developmental delays like social anxiety, sensory processing delays, motor planning issues and speech apraxia.
Although Aubrey had come a long way and showed improvement from her therapies, her lack of confidence and sensory processing challenges prevented her from trying and enjoying new and familiar activities with the family. Often, her family needed to leave events early or miss them entirely due to Aubrey’s inability to manage the sensory overload or her anxiety.
Aubrey’s parents, Michelle and Rich, were looking for a service dog for their daughter to help her gain independence and the confidence to be able to navigate her overwhelming world with more ease. Like many of our W.A.G.S. 4 Kids families, Aubrey’s family also wanted to be able to go out and enjoy events in public and create more memories together.
Previously living in Virginia, Aubrey’s parents had a difficult time finding a program that would allow a child as young as Aubrey to apply for a service dog ... until they moved to Ohio and found W.A.G.S. 4 Kids.
“We are very blessed to have found W.A.G.S.,” she said. “We had been looking for a service dog for Aubrey even before moving to Ohio, and found that most places didn’t want to work with younger kids. Don’t let anything stop you from providing the best for your child. You can’t put a price tag on what these dogs will do for these kids.”
In July 2019, a perfect match was made when Aubrey was introduced to Claire. Within 24 hours of their meeting, Michelle said magic was already happening.
“Yesterday we brought home Aubrey’s service dog,” Michelle wrote in a Facebook post announcing the partnership between Aubrey and Claire. “The joy and excitement on Aubrey’s face as she watched the trainers at Grafton Correctional Facility show us all the commands her dog knows; the laughter and smiles she so freely shared while we were there, in a room full of strangers and other big dogs, was something we don’t see often at all. Yesterday, Aubrey would not walk. Not to the car as we were headed down there, not into the facility, not beyond security. She wanted to be held. In the protection of Rich and I. Until it was time to bring her dog home. Then she lit up the room with her smile, grabbed the leash and was ready to go. Magic is already happening. We already have an increase in confidence and independence, two of our big goals in going this route for her. We could not be any more happy with how our first 24 hours have gone.”
It’s now been a 5.5 months since that first magical meeting, and Aubrey continues to improve as her bond with Claire grows.
“Claire has been way more than we ever imagined was possible. Aubrey and Claire are best buddies and magic happens every single day,” Michelle explained. “We saw Aubrey’s developmental pediatrician recently. We only see her every six months. She could not believe the changes in Aubrey. We hadn’t seen her since March and she was amazed by the difference. The only thing we have changed or added is Claire.”
Claire has also helped Aubrey be more open and willing to go to her therapies, which is improving her development. Testaments of this improvement can be seen watching Aubrey run alongside Claire with the leash in her hand, and Aubrey being able to jump in a pile of leaves and stick the landing instead of falling to the ground. These two seemingly simple childhood activities (running and jumping) are physical things Aubrey struggled with in the past.
Aubrey jumping in leaves with her brother
Michelle has also noticed improvement in Aubrey when the family would venture out into public. Instead of becoming overwhelmed and shutting down in new places with new people, Aubrey is now more willing to attempt new things knowing she can seek comfort in her sidekick, Claire.
“We are seeing Aubrey's confidence and independence blossom in ways we only dreamed of,” Michelle said. “She is more secure in herself when she has Claire by her side. She is able to be more engaged with people, both familiar and unfamiliar. She truly has come out of her shell since Claire joined the family. She has been life changing for all of us.”
It is a very Thankful Thanksgiving for Aubrey, Claire, and the entire family, thanks to your ongoing support of W.A.G.S. 4 Kids’ programs and children. Check in next Thursday for the final Part 4 of our 2019 “A Thankful Thanksgiving” blog series.
If you’d like to change the life of another child in Aubrey’s name, please click the button below to make your online donation today. Along with us, you are “Growing Possibilities, One Child at a Time.”