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Prince George brothers benefiting from autism guide dogs

A virtual fundraiser for Dog Guides Canada takes place on May 28
Izyk with his dog Leroy (left) and Jasper getting assistance from his dog Kylo at the dentist (left).

A pair of Prince George brothers are benefiting from the support of specially trained Autism Assistance Dog Guides who’ve made an enormous difference in their lives.

Eight and 11-year-old, Izyk and Jasper Papineau receive specialized support from their dogs Leroy and Kylo.

“He fit into our family like we've had him for years. It was kind of amazing,” says their mother Meggan, referring to when Leroy first joined their family in 2019.

“It was like he knew that Izyk was in need of him. With Isaac, he had a hard time sleeping through the night. From the day he was born, he never slept through the night, not once and then the night we bring Leroy home, he sleeps through the night.”

Leroy also provides Izyk with comfort and deep pressure therapy and helped him to stop bolting away in public places.

“We could be in the middle of a parking lot, the middle of the mall, wherever he'd just all the sudden run,” said Meggan.

“It gave us a lot of reassurance when we were going out in public because before we got the dogs, we didn't go many places.”

The family had to wait through the COVID-19 pandemic, before they were able to fly out and pick up their second dog Kylo for their older son Jasper.

“For Jasper, Kylo is more of an emotional influence on Jasper. He can kind of read Jasper’s mood, and either provide therapy by laying on his lap or light pressure therapy by licking him.”

Each dog costs $35,000 to train and match but they are provided free of charge by the Lions Club of Canada Dog Guides.

On May 28, Dog Guides’ biggest annual fundraiser, the Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides, is taking place virtually and in approximately 150 communities across Canada.

It is one of the primary funding sources for Dog Guides and the goal is to raise $1.4 million across the country. The Papineau family is encouraging everyone to get involved.

While there is no walk organized in Prince George for this year, participants can walk individually or with a team and register online to log their kilometres and even connect their Fitbit devices, to make it that much easier.

“I couldn't imagine our life without them right now. It's brought security and safety for my children. It brought awareness about autism and other unseen disabilities,” said Meggan.

 “It really helps when we're out and about and people see the dogs and they see the badges and recognize like, oh, that person needs a little extra help because of autism.”