The Drake Center for Veterinary Care is proud to team together with
Good Dog! Autism Companions to raise funds in honor of a local family, The Benitos!
"A Pup for Peanut"
by Jen Benito (Jana's Mom)
Jana (aka Peanut) came into our lives when she was just one month old. At birth, her parents signed over all rights to her. We can only assume it was due to her Down syndrome diagnosis. When we agreed to bring her into our home, we were fully aware of her disability, however, we never imagined the joy she would bring to our lives. As soon as we met her we were in love. She weighed just under 6 pounds and instantly her name, Peanut, stuck! We educated ourselves on Down syndrome and connected with fellow families right away. We knew this was going to be a long road, but we also knew she was worth it!
As Peanut grew, we started noticing that she was not meeting her milestones on time, even compared to her peers with Down syndrome. We knew there was something else going on. Around the time she turned sixteen months old, she regressed in her speech. She went from being able to sign and speak up to 20 words to being completely non-verbal. Peanut became overwhelmed very easily in loud groups, around new people, and in new environments. These meltdowns became something we dealt with almost on a daily basis. She started sorting her toys and clothing and become stuck in a trance-like state sometimes for hours at a time. We couldn't reach her or help her engage with those around her. We knew we had to figure something out. Autism was constantly on the back of our minds, however, local therapist and doctors didn't seem concerned and told us it was a typical regression.
Luckily, we were in the process of changing to a new pediatrician who specialized in developmental disabilities and on the very first visit he expressed his concerns regarding her regression and he referred us to a research program with UCSD. This program was working on finding new techniques to diagnose Autism at a younger age. As well as carefully diagnosing those with multiple disabilities. Finally, it looked like we were going to be able to help our little Peanut. I remember going into our first appointment. We were excited to finally get some answers and possibly the help Peanut would need to succeed. However, we were not prepared for the heartbreak we experienced when we officially had clarification that yes, Peanut also had Autism.
Children having both Down syndrome and Autism is still somewhat new in the medical field. It is very difficult to diagnose since there is often a lot of overlap. There is very little research on this dual diagnosis and therefore, many specialists are not able to make a clear diagnosis.
Even though we suspected that Peanut had Autism, it felt like a punch in the gut to finally hear the doctor confirm it. We knew all the obstacles she would face with Down syndrome, but there are so many individuals who live very independent lives with it. Knowing that she has two obstacles now to overcome, was truly heartbreaking. Peanut has worked so hard throughout her short life to reach the smallest of goals. From sitting, to crawling, to finally walking right before her 3rd birthday, she has had to fight constantly to do things that come naturally to typical children. We knew that with her having both Down syndrome and Autism, her fight was going to be even tougher.
Peanut is now 3 1/2 years old. She is energetic, determined and very strong-willed. As she has gotten older we've been able to see the dominance that Autism plays in her life. She is still fully non-verbal, she has constant meltdowns and struggles to overcome her stims daily. We have learned so much from her in such a short time. But we know that our job is to help her in all ways possible. That's where her service dog comes in!
We found Good! Dog Autism through another family who just brought home their dog. Their daughter, Livvy has both Down syndrome and Autism, just like Peanut. This organization has blessed so many families in tremendous ways! Service dogs do not only provide companionship, but they also provide independence and peace when autism often causes chaos. Studies have shown countless benefits of these dogs from calming, communication, quality of life and even social skills.
Peanut's overall quality of life will be improved by welcoming a service dog into our family. We hope that this dog will help her overcome her stims, calm her when she feels overwhelmed in her environment, and even help her sleep better. But most of all, we hope that this dog will help her create an emotional bond and have a best friend.
Our Story With Good Dog! Autism Companions:
The Drake Center for Veterinary Care is thrilled to be campaigning for our FOURTH Good Dog!
Our journey with Good Dog! Autism Companions began six years ago, when we raised the funds needed to provide the Comprehensive Autism Center in Oceanside with their very own facility service dog. Good Dog! Drake, is still serving children with autism every day, and loving life.
Our next two fundraising journeys were for two different local military families. First, we raised $13,000 for The Langager family in 2016 and then another $13,000 for the Louden family in 2017.
This has been quite the amazing journey. We are so excited to assist The Benito Family in raising funds for Jana (aka Peanut's) autism service dog.
We are huge believers in the human-animal bond, and the amazing bond between a child and a pet. Thank you for your support!
Good Dog! Autism Companions is dedicated to bringing the benefits of the human-canine relationship to children and families living with autism. With an autism service dog by their side children and families can participate in life more fully and with greater ease. A service dog can be a life changer for a family!
Please help our community fundraisers by donating and sharing their stories. Good Dog! is funded 100% by charitable donations, we rely on the generosity of individual donors and corporate matching to continue our important work. All gifts are received with the greatest of gratitude from us all.
Good Dog! is a 501(c) (3) tax exempt non-profit. EIN number #45-2627922