Albuquerque Journal - Parade - - PICKS -

Autism as­sis­tance dog, Geneva, Ill.

Like the Star Wars char­ac­ter for which he was named, Chew­bacca is big, hairy and very loyal—in this case to a 7-year-old subur­ban Chicago boy with autism named Gio­vanni. A 2-year-old gold­en­doo­dle, Chewie was bred and trained by the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion 4 Paws for Abil­ity in Xe­nia, Ohio. Chil­dren with autism may be prone to com­mu­ni­ca­tion dif­fi­culty, emo­tional melt­downs and run­ning away. A dog like Chewie can help. “Chew­bacca has changed our lives in so many ways,” says mom Myrna Re­sendez. Since 2014, Chewie has helped Gio­vanni be­come com­fort­able mak­ing eye con­tact and speak­ing with peo­ple. He’s calmed him in un­com­fort­able sit­u­a­tions and reg­u­larly ac­com­pa­nies him to school, quickly be­com­ing her son’s “furry best friend.” “He has given me a sense of peace and hope,” she says. “I can fi­nally sleep at night know­ing my son will not leave the house any­more, and if he did, Chewie would find him.”

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