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Monroe family hoping to get service dog for nonverbal autistic teen



MONROE, La. – One West Monroe family is trying to get a service dog for their autistic teen.

John Nash and his wife have been trying for years to find a service dog for their daughter, Lyric. He says the service dog will give her a new best friend and also help her deal with some of the challenges she faces each day.

“It’s hard for an autistic child to find a friend,” John says. “Because in a way an autistic child is basically on their own. Because a lot of other kids really don’t understand. Unless the other kid is a family member, then they kind of they understand if that makes sense, because they’re with the family all the time.”

John says they’ve tried to get their own dog trained in Shreveport, and they’ve also looked at places in Mississippi. So far, none of the options have panned out and left them out thousands of dollars.

Lyric is also nonverbal. John says having a service dog would help Lyric with her meltdowns and keep her calm. It will also help with the sleepless nights.

John remembers one night in particular, “She wanted to stay up late so Daddy had to stay up late too. Anything about having a service dog helps [like] guiding her when she has the leash. When we go places, you know, she won’t be able to run off. She won’t want to run off.”

Staci Choate with PAWS of Northeast Louisiana says, “Service dogs could cost the owner up to $20,000. And that’s not necessarily something that insurance covers. So it depends on the group.”

Choate says they are trained for two to three years before they ever meet their owner.”They are prepared to help their master in anything that could ever happen from crossing the street to daily life to getting on an airplane to surviving.

“We saw service dogs help people survive in 911, where blind people were working at the tops of the towers, and those service dogs led them down the stairs. So they are trained to protect their owner, to serve their owner and to make sure that daily life for their owner is as easy as possible,” she adds.

“Usually people will go in for about a six week training course, where they learn the dog, they learn what the dog does. They learn the commands… So it’s not easy to get a dog. It’s a lot of preparation. It’s a lot of training. It’s a lot of money. But once you have a dog like that, you’re good.

Choate says service dogs become their owners’ best friends too. John says they’ve already found the perfect best friend for Lyric in Missouri.

“Lyric is very skittish upon everything when she first you know sees something,” he says. “This dog actually calmed her down real good. She was walking with the dog. When she started getting antsy, wanting to move or give up, the dog got on her lap, and she actually started petting the dog with no problem. It was pretty smooth.”