Olivia was originally paired with Willa. Willa has since retired, and she has been matched with a new team mate, Bling!
Our daughter, Olivia, is 9 years old. She is a happy girl who loves dressing up in costumes and pretending to be
characters. Olivia loves school, holidays, shopping, Build A Bear and American Girl. Her interests change from
time to time but they are almost always related to a movie or TV show. Olivia loves acting out characters and
scripting movie lines. When she was a baby, she hummed the tune of songs when bored. It was then that we
learned how just special our sweet girl is!
Olivia had a very hard childhood early on due to multiple health issues including severe GERD (Reflux),
multiple protein allergies causing Failure to Thrive, mild Cerebral Palsy, and infections/illness. She was
diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at age 3. Her diagnosis was hard to accept: 1) We had been told
she did not have Autism for a few years and 2) Olivia’s Autism presents much differently than many other
students as she loves to socialize (on her terms), is verbal, and does well academically. She is also very self-
aware of her differences.
From the time Olivia was three years old until approximately age eight, Olivia spent most of her time at home
(non-school time). It was very difficult for us to take Olivia out in the community as she often would run away
from us and melt down (hit, kick, scream, swear). We were asked to leave a few restaurants and received
many stares and judgmental comments. Olivia also had a sleep disorder and she would stay up all night
causing for very exhausted parents who simply did not have the energy to take Olivia out.
In March of 2017, with the help of Canines for Disabled Kids (whom donated funds towards the training
program), Olivia received a Service Dog named Willa. The two girls formed a great bond. Willa’s tasks are
search and rescue (tracking), calming, tethering, and behavior disruption. When Olivia gets upset, Willa will
first “touch” Olivia to try and disrupt the thought pattern. If Olivia does not calm down; then Willa will lay on
her offering deep pressure sensory input. Olivia also has the tendency to wander/elope. Willa has been
trained in following Olivia’s scent and skin cells if she runs away and Willa is tethered to Olivia when out in the
community to prevent wandering.
Willa has been a lifesaver to Olivia and our entire family. Because of her, we have been able to take short/day
trips and Olivia has greatly increased the amount of time she spends in general education classes. Olivia’s
aggressive behaviors have greatly decreased and she is better able to understand the cause/effect of her
actions. Most of all, Olivia has a best friend in Willa! Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, Willa
had to be retired in July 2018. We will be heading back to training in Ohio at 4 Paws for Ability to receive a
new Service Dog this Winter. We look forward to the same results and companionship with Olivia’s new
Thank you for supporting Canines for Disabled Kids. Your support means so much families and children.