Ruby: More Than A Best Friend
“Ever since the day we met Ruby, our service dog in training, my son Garrett has been a much happier little boy who looks forward to Ruby’s visits,” explains Encinitas mother Caroline Tingum, whose eight-year-old son was diagnosed with autism at 19 months. “You see, Garrett is constantly putting himself in danger,” Caroline says. “He will dart off if he sees something that interests him.” The most recent scare happened while the Tingum family was on vacation in Colorado. Caroline and husband Bruce’s three children were outside playing near their father while he set up a zip line; Caroline meanwhile prepared dinner inside the cabin. Six-year-old Tori, their youngest, alerted Bruce that Garrett had left the front yard and had taken off on his bike. “My husband told her to go tell mom, and then went running after him on foot,” Caroline recalls. “He soon realized that he couldn’t catch him and retreated to get his bike. I immediately ran to get the keys to the car, but Bruce had them. Panicked, I left our other kids with my mom and ran to a neighbor’s cabin to get help. We went up and down different roads searching for him, calling out his name, and alerting neighbors to be on the lookout for him.”
Forty-five excruciating minutes had passed, and Caroline was naturally frantic. She recounts, “I knew we had to find him quickly as it was almost dark, there were bears in the area, and Garrett has no fear of them.” Upon returning to the neighbor’s cabin, Caroline called the police, who put out an APB. On her way back to the cabin, she looked up the dirt road and, to her relief, Garrett and Bruce were riding their bikes towards her.
Caroline later learned that Garrett had ridden up the steep dirt road, down the highway, and all the way to a lake three miles away.
Enter Ruby, a Golden Retriever currently with volunteer trainer Linda Chandler while living and learning through Solana Beach-based Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs, Inc. (TLCAD), a nonprofit dedicated to the training of service dogs for those with limited abilities in San Diego County. TLCAD specializes in developing seizure response, mobility, autism, facility, and specialty dogs. The dogs are given at no charge to the beneficiaries, who receive instruction on the care, handling of, laws, customized cues, and safety of their dog, at which time they then also receive certification and ownership. TLCAD stays involved in the training and recertification of the dog for the remainder of its life.
Soon to be given to the Tingum family, Ruby is more than a service dog, “she is a valuable family member who will go everywhere with us,” notes Caroline. “She has changed our lives in a very positive way. When attached to Ruby with the harness, Garrett’s job is to hold Ruby’s squishy handle. This helps keep him engaged so he is not pulling away from me, which makes him much easier to walk with. Ruby is also in training to learn to locate Garrett when he goes missing or has escaped.”
Because Caroline is not yet certified, TLCAD president Karen Shultz brought Ruby to the Tingums’ home on Halloween so they could trick or treat together. Caroline exudes, “This is an example of the unique, detailed commitment you get from Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs.”
“We feel blessed that [TLCAD] has chosen to help us,” Caroline concludes. “They have invested so much time and energy, and are committed to making sure both Ruby and our family are properly trained. We are forever grateful.”
On Monday, December 5, at L’Auberge Del Mar, TLCAD presents Autism & Animals, An Evening With Temple Grandin to benefit a designated TLCAD fund to provide service dogs to local nonprofits TERI, Inc. and ACT Today!. (www.tenderlovingcanines.org) JANESHIOMI
Check out the Pet Collecitves’ Healing Power of Pets video featuring Tender Loving Canine Assistance Dog Ruby and how she has changed the Tingum family: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjsAenxJous