Sunday, December 21, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

‘We’re the ones who are being trained': Assistance dog helps boy, family

Gretchen1w

Tyler Abbanat, who has autism, has been working to train Gretchen. She has learned to avoid obstacles and can even open the refrigerator. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

By
From page A3 | August 14, 2014 |

Tyler Abbanat faces more challenges than most other 10-year-old boys.

Tyler, who goes by Ty, has been in and out of the hospital for a severe bowel condition. One year, the Davis boy was hospitalized seven times. At age 4 1/2, he underwent surgery.

Then, when he was 6 years old, Ty was diagnosed with autism. Repeated hospitalizations have given him post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Everyday things bring the fight-or-flight response,” said Ty’s mother Jennifer.

But the Abbanats — Jennifer and Brian, and their children Megan, Ty and Sarah — know the secret to a relaxed home: pets.

“We have a lot of animals because we’ve always known that animals bring our family together,” Jennifer said.

Ty has always adored the Abbanats’ two small dogs. He feeds and cares for them, and the dogs help Ty in return.

“He uses animals to regulate,” Jennifer said. “A huge part of autism is dysregulation — not being able to control your body’s response to things.”

The dogs help Ty stay calm, but they’re too skittish to accompany Ty to places like the hospital or doctor’s office, where he is stressed and needs their help.

Then the Abbanats heard about Canine Companions for Independence.

CCI is a nonprofit organization that breeds and trains assistance dogs, before matching them with people and organizations who benefit from the dogs’ unique skills. To be matched with a CCI dog, families go through an application procedure. 

“They’re very selective,” Brian said. “There’s a lot of families that get turned away.”

According to Jennifer, CCI places only about 80 assistance dogs each year across the nation. This is a reflection of the time and resources put into raising and training each dog.

Once a family is selected to be matched with a dog, they undergo an intensive two-week training course. CCI does not charge participants for either the dog or the training.

The Abbanats applied  for a dog for Ty in November 2012. They were placed on the wait list in February 2013.

“From what we were hearing, it was unusual to move through (the application process) that fast, which gave us hope,” Jennifer said.

In mid-2014, more than a year after being placed on the wait list, the Abbanats were told that Ty would be matched with a dog. Their wait had paid off.

The whole family went to the CCI campus in Santa Rosa for team training. There, the Abbanats were introduced to four different dogs, each a potential match for Ty. One of these dogs was named Gretchen.

“When Gretchen came and put her head in Ty’s lap, I thought in my heart, ‘This is the dog,’ ” Jennifer said.

Brian also saw something special in Gretchen. “It seemed like she was the calmest of the four dogs,” he said.

Ty’s big sister Megan agreed. “She was cute.”

But ultimately, the choice was Ty’s. “He said, ‘I really like Gretchen. I think she’s a good dog for me,’ ” Jennifer recalled.

“I picked her,” Ty said.

Ty’s choice pleased Jennifer, who watched him interact with all four dogs.

“We knew we needed a dog to complement his energy,” Jennifer said. “(Gretchen) is playful but also very calm. She’s able to bring the energy level down when he needs it to be down.”

The Abbanats saw an immediate difference in Ty’s behavior after he was matched with Gretchen. He engaged with the dog training lessons more and began to attend the group lunches hosted by CCI. And the entire family enjoyed staying at the CCI campus.

“We felt like we were in heaven there,” Jennifer said. “The experience was by far one of the greatest for our family.”

Back home, Gretchen continues to help Ty, providing support that the family’s other animals cannot.

“She helps us out so much as a family,” Jennifer said. “When Ty has behaviors, the other dogs used to run away — they’re too timid. But Gretchen goes to him. … He’ll go down on all fours, and we have a command for her to lay on top of him. It just provides this calm.”

His special dog helps Ty socially, too.

“He uses (Gretchen) as a social bridge to talk to people, so long as you want to talk about dogs,” Jennifer said. “Gretchen brings us into his world, but also draws him out of his world to participate in our world.”

Ty is proud to be Gretchen’s handler. He puts her through a range of commands: sit, down, jump, speak. She can pick up a pen from the ground and give it to Ty. At his command, she will even open the refrigerator door using a rope attached to the handle.

Gretchen’s abilities have given Ty a new way to connect with others. Now, he is sharing his expertise, showing Brian more about how to handle Gretchen.

“There is so much that (Gretchen) will continue to facilitate as Ty gets older,” Jennifer said. “She’ll grow up with him from this point and continue to help him.”

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

     
    What’s new at UCD? Construction projects abound

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    No-nonsense Musser voted Citizen of the Year

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Sharing a meal, and so much more

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Brinley Plaque honors environmental stalwart

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    AP sources: Cops’ killer angry over Garner death

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Raul Castro: Don’t expect detente to change Cuban system

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Police seek help in finding runaway twin girls

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

    Downtown crash results in DUI arrest

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

     
    March trial date set in Davis molest case

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

     
    North Korea proposes joint probe over Sony hacking

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Enterprise plans Christmas, New Year’s holiday hours

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
     
    Luminaria display planned in West Davis

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Soup’s On will benefit NAMI-Yolo

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Pedal around Davis on weekly bike ride

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Donors, volunteers honored on Philanthropy Day

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Supplies collected for victims of abuse

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Surprise honor is really nice, dude

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Konditorei presents free holiday concert

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    .

    Forum

     
    E-cigs surpass regular cigarettes among teens

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

    Google me this: Should I hit that button?

    By Marion Franck | From Page: B4

     
    Too late to pick a fight

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    All police need to humanize

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Are we only a fair-weather bike city?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Join us in making our world more just

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

     
    The electronic equivalent of war

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

    The Green House effect: Homes where the elderly thrive

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A11

     
    .

    Sports

     
    Stenz shines as DHS girls take a tournament title

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Aggie Manzanares not quite finished carrying the rock

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    UCD women look to improve, despite game at No. 7 Stanford

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Second-half run spurs Aggie men to 8-1

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    49ers fall to San Diego in overtime

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    .

    Business

    Marrone Bio expands its product reach in Latin America

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Sierra Northern Railway names CEO

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Sink your teeth into Vampire Penguin

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Sunday, December 21, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B8