Success Stories

Success Stories Come In All Four-legged Shapes and Sizes. 

Autism Assistance Dog

Photo: Cornelius Matteo Photography

In Spring 2017, Dogs for Better Lives successfully placed their third Autism Assistance Dog with a young client in southern Oregon. Dinero, a 2 ½-year old black Labrador, better suited for autism work, came to Dogs for Better Lives from Guide Dogs for the Blind (San Rafael, California). Dinero successfully completed his Autism Assistance Dog training at Dogs for Better Lives in February 2017 and now resides with a family in White City, Oregon. Certified Assistance Dog Trainer Jessica Reichmuth spent six months training Dinero teaching him the skills necessary to work with a child on the Autism Spectrum.

“Dinero is more than just a dog to Jack (client). He is his confidant, best friend, and grounding agent when the world appears so vast and unyielding.”

Dinero has a significant impact on the life of this child with autism and his family, as evidenced by the family’s recent trip to the Oregon Coast. Dinero is the third Autism Assistance Dog in the last ten months to be trained and placed by Dogs for Better Lives. We are now inviting applicants aged 4-11 years old and residing in southern and central Oregon, to apply for an Autism Assistance Dog.

Current data from the Centers for Disease Control states that 1 in 68 children in the United States are on the Autism spectrum. As a result, there is a tremendous need for Autism Assistance Dogs and Dogs for Better Lives is working to meet this ever-growing need.

Hearing Assistance Dog

In April 2016 my life changed: I stopped being afraid. That was the day that Dogs for Better Lives trainers Katie and Jenny arrived at my door with my partner and new best friend, Lileu. Lileu’s abilities are astounding!

“Lileu [Hearing Assistance Dog] gives me the confidence to engage in conversation with strangers and acquaintances, to travel solo, live alone and even just to leave my house.” (Shayna, Client)

She is so smart and she continues to learn about me and my hearing needs daily. When she’s not working, Lileu is fun and goofy – she makes my day, everyday! Lileu gives me the confidence to engage in conversation with strangers and acquaintances, to travel solo, to live alone or to even just leave my house. Some think that you will be judged for needing a service dog, but in actuality the support, kindness and accommodations that I have received far out-weigh the negative. People now make sure that I can hear them; my invisible disability is now visible.

When I am out in public, I am frequently stopped to respond to questions or to receive kind words of encouragement. In just a few short months, Lileu has been to a Broadway Show, two Major League baseball games, an Andy Grammar concert, has stayed in a hotel and traveled by subway and train. Because of Lileu, I was able to have these wonderful experiences, and this is only our beginning.

Program Assistance Dog

Photo: Cornelius Matteo Photography

On a Spring day in May of 2015, a young man remained outside of the classroom in his mother’s car. Rebecca, Ashland School District Transitional Program Teacher, recalls that he would not come inside. “He experiences autism, severe anxiety, and depression, Rebecca explained, and has only averaged 1-2 days per week of class before coming to my class.”  His mother would take him to school each day and he would complain of illnesses, aches, and pains to avoid going to class.  Later that month, a beautiful brown, tan and black rescue dog named Hilton was at the door.  Hilton had joined Rebecca’s classroom as a Program Assistance Dog, professionally trained by Jenny Nickelson, a Dogs for Better Lives trainer.  On that day, the young man said: “I’m going in, Mom.” From that day forward, he never missed a day of class. Rebecca recalls the daily routine.

“This student would enter the classroom and head directly to the couch, drop his backpack off of the shoulder with a thud to the floor, and flop onto the couch while saying ‘come on Hilton!’”

Hilton would jump up on his lap and the hugging, petting, and licking would begin.  With his tail wagging, Hilton would cover him with kisses all over his face. The student laughed and smiled with glee! The student began to engage in the walking and exercise hour, suggesting that Hilton could use a walk too.  During the early morning “check-in” process he not only joined the circle for the first time but eventually began making eye contact with other students. Rebecca’s students range in age from 18 to 21 and need to learn basic life skills to help them integrate into society as independent contributors to their community.

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