When Gatlin was diagnosed with classic autism at age 2 our whole world changed. We had no idea what the future held or will hold for Gatlin. Will he ever speak? Will he be able to live independently? So many questions in which no one has an answer. All we can do is provide Gatlin with love, therapies and classroom instruction he needs and delight in all his accomplishments no matter how small they may seem.
Sunday June 2013 was a wakeup call for my husband and I. Our family had enjoyed spending time with my brother in his home over the weekend but when we awoke Sunday morning Gatlin was nowhere to be found. I saw the back door cracked and the gate behind my brother’s in ground pool open. Frantically I began screaming for Gatlin and looking for him in the alley behind my brother’s house. Then my heart sank as it occurred to me to look in the pool. He was not there thank God!! A neighbor heard me calling and ran out to tell me that Gatlin had been picked up by the police over an hour ago since no one in the neighborhood new him or where he belonged. When the police arrived I explained that he was autistic and nonverbal and left the home before anyone was awake. Thank God someone saw him and called the police.
Gatlin now almost 5 is becoming more curious. Not to mention stronger and faster. He often runs into the road or leaves the home in the middle of the night. We have alarms on the doors and a medical bracelet for his wrist, but it is just not enough to ensure his safety. Gatlin is unable to understand the dangers of the world around him.
When I found the website for 4Paws and watched the videos I knew that we had to do this for Gatlin. He needs a service dog. The peace of mind that a service dog will bring our family is without measure. The ability to attended events as a family without worrying Gatlin will become overstimulated and run away is priceless. Not to mention the ability to give Gatlin a friendship and companionship only a dog can give.
Thank you 4 paws for giving us this opportunity!!!
Erin Denehy (Gatlin’s Mom)