Finn Catalanotto, age eleven and a half, is no stranger to Autism Service Dogs. He spent ten days with his family in Xenia, Ohio, at 4 Paws for Ability, getting trained and partnered up with his service dog Echo many years ago. Ever since the training, Finn can be seen all over Cincinnati, where he lives with his family.
Echo has had a tremendous impact on Finn’s life, both in terms of safety and socialization. Finn’s family originally knew that they needed a service dog due to Finn’s elopement/wandering attempts. The family has had to call the police on four separate occasions in the past to find Finn, as he continued to escape undeteced from his home. During the training, the family was instructed on how to have Echo “track” Finn by scent in case of an elopement. Since the training, luckily there have not been any emergencies where Finn has escaped. Every time the family does a “practice tracking session” (where they mimic an elopement and have Echo track down Finn), Echo successfully finds Finn in no time. It is such a relief to have Echo as a part of the safety plan for a boy like Finn who loves to run!
Finn also likes to attempt to wander or run away even when it’s not done in a sleuthy manner. For example, he would love to wander off while waiting to get checked in for a doctor’s appointment. Due to the “tethering” protocol that Echo was trained to do, Finn stays safely by his family’s side while out in public. Because Finn is attached to Echo, Finn’s parents’ hands are free to continue on with other tasks that need to get done (checking in for appointments, grocery shopping, tying a shoe, etc). This is helpful to the family, but is also helpful to Finn. Finn doesn’t always want to hold hands when out in public. Because of Echo, Finn can feel more independence while still being safely anchored to his dog. Additionally, Finn can get agitated and anxious when he has to wait, which is a task that everyone needs to do. When Finn has to wait, this can result in him yelling and banging on things like glass cases at the supermarket. Finn’s mom simply re-directs Finn to give Echo a “gentle pet” and Finn calms down every time. This is both calming to Finn’s sensory system and also much more socially appropriate than banging on glass cases!
Echo has created several social opportunities in addition to keeping Finn more safe. It is more the norm than not for Finn to be greeted by strangers because of his dog. In the past strangers might look away due to some of Finn’s neuro-atypical behaviors/movements. Now Finn is like a super star when he’s out in public. People are constantly asking questions about the dog and if they can pet the dog. It’s all up to Finn—he gets to tell people that they are allowed to pet the dog (he’s only refused once!) and he always is able to tell people his dog’s name. That is a big accomplishment for Finn. It’s really heartwarming to see the little smile on Finn’s face when he is greeted because of Echo or when people say how much they love his dog.
Echo will be retiring soon, and hence Finn is in need of help from the community to help fund the training for his next service dog. Any amount that you can give would be helpful for Finn’s goal to be reached so that he can get his next service dog. As his family had said, the service dog is one of the best interventions they have done to assist Finn. They are so excited to meet the next service dog and see all of the benefits that the dog will bring!
It costs 4 Paws between $40,000-60,000 to raise and properly train a service dog for each child. We are raising $17,000, only a portion of that total cost to receive a service dog. If you would like to support Finn, you can make a donation in one of the following ways:
If you wish to make a donation on-line the website, is www.4pawsforability.org/donate-now . Include the “Finn Catalanotto” on the donation in the “Description” field of the form on the second page of your Authorize.net donation.
Checks by mail:
Please make checks out to 4 Paws for Ability and please make sure to write “In honor of Finn Catalanotto” on your check memo line.
4 Paws for Ability
In Honor of Finn Catalanotto
253 Dayton Ave.
Xenia, Ohio, 45385.
You may also call to make a credit card donation over the phone at (937) 374-0385 – Monday thru Friday 9AM to 4PM EST.