Meet Good Dog! Drake, one dog making a difference in the lives of several children and families living with autism in our community.

Drake is the first of her kind at Good Dog! Autism Companions, a local non-profit that specializes in training personal service dogs for children with autism and their families and Comprehensive Autism Center (CAC) in Oceanside, the applied behavior analysis facility where she has worked to provide therapy for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders since 2014.

Named after our hospital, Drake’s important role at CAC was made possible with the help of our generous clients, staff and business partners, who together raised over $10,000 for her specialized training.

According to Good Dog! executive director, Laura Sylvester, the idea to train a service dog for facility work came from a touching phone call she received from a local teacher working with special needs children.

“She called us one day to tell us what it has been like to have our dog in her class,” Sylvester said. “She said, ‘In 15 years of being a special education teacher, I have never seen anything impact a child, a class and an entire school the way this dog has.’”

Now, thanks to Drake, that impact is a reality for the families of CAC.

Though Drake officially belongs to The Drake Center, she works and lives with CAC’s regional director, Susie Jordan, her husband and twin daughters. Susie is responsible for Drake’s overall care, facilitation of her daily duties and maintaining her mastered skill set. In return, Drake’s veterinary care is provided free of charge.

As a facility dog, Drake helps to increase motivation, promote gross and fine motor activities, provide opportunities for language and calm and comfort children with autism spectrum disorders.

Other benefits of a facility dog like Drake include using the dog as part of the reward system; reading aloud to a dog, which research has shown can help improve reading ability; increasing confidence and self-esteem by teaching the dog new commands; overcoming fears and developing more confidence around dogs; learning to interact with a dog, which promotes theory of mind; and improving social skills.

Drake has also been trained to “read” commands using visual cues, which allow non-verbal children with autism to communicate with her using flashcards. Children may use the cards to give Drake specific commands, such as “come” or “sit,” or request a specific activity with Drake, like giving a high five or going for a walk.

In addition, several of CAC’s graduate students will learn how to work with and utilize a service dog in therapy sessions.

Most importantly, however, Drake’s unwavering love, compassion and patience will promote a positive influence on CAC’s children and families for life.

Find out what Drake has been up to lately in our Good Dog! Blog.

Follow Drake on Facebook and Instagram using #gooddogdrake.