When Braden Jet needed total hip replacement surgery, his friends at Easter Seals rallied together to help him get better.
Braden Jet, an autism therapy dog-in-training, spends his days lending a paw to those in need at Easter Seals of Southwest Florida, a nonprofit serving children and adults with developmental disabilities. He instantly won the hearts and minds of the Easter Seals community when he first arrived as a 10-week-old puppy in August of last year.
However, Braden Jet’s training has been put on pause after he was diagnosed with hip dysplasia in May. On Aug. 15, Braden Jet went through a successful hip replacement surgery and is recovering. Now members of his Easter Seals family are using their skills and talents to help raise money to go towards the cost of his surgery.
FINDING THE PERFECT PUPPY
Easter Seals CEO Tom Waters said the idea to introduce an autism therapy dog came about because of the increasing number of autistic children served by Easter Seals. “We realized we needed to provide pet therapy to complement our other therapies like art and music, which are all so important to this particular disability,” Waters said.
The search for Easter Seals’ first-ever therapy dog took months. The Humane Society of Sarasota County and Bayside Pet Resort worked together to find a puppy with just the right temperament, which ended with Braden Jet, a mix of Newfoundland and Golden retriever breeds.
“While other puppies are very hyper and excited, Braden Jet would rather chill and relax with older dogs — he has an old soul,” said Beverly Landers, an occupational therapy assistant at Easter Seals who is Braden Jet’s handler and owner. “Most dogs can’t became therapy dogs until they are older. Braden Jet is special because he is so calm at such a young age. I’ve never had a dog like him.”
Autism spectrum disorders are characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behavior, sensory issues and cognitive delays. The right therapy dog can help by offering a calming influence and encouraging social interaction.
“A sense of calmness and closeness are two things that really help an autistic child who is feeling overstimulated,” Waters said.
Apart from being a stress reliever, a therapy dog offers other benefits for children with autism such as helping them with their fine motor skills. For example, the children have been learning how to put on Braden Jet’s harness as a form of occupational therapy.
“Having this dog that they can take care of also gives them the perception of another being’s needs,” Landers said. “With autism, it doesn't occur to them what other people need. Now all of a sudden, they are engaging with Braden Jet to see what he needs. For some reason, this is easier to show them with pets than with people."
LETTING HIM SHINE
When Braden Jet was found to have with hip dysplasia, Easter Seals set up a fundraiser to raise $3,000 for his surgery, and still need about $1,000. The Humane Society of Sarasota County and Bayside Pet Resort offered to match the donations and cover the cost of recovery.
Braden Jet’s friends at East Seals also wanted to contribute.
Patti, who takes part in the Easter Seals art therapy program, painted a portrait of Braden Jet which is featured on T-shirts and tote bags available for purchase to raise money for his surgery.
Ashley, a fellow Easter Seals artist with autism, is donating all of the money she makes from selling her artwork to Braden Jet’s surgery. Like him, she also has hip dysplasia.
There’s also Billy, another member of the Easter Seals’ autism community, who is using his social media skills to be the voice of Braden Jet. Billy manages Braden Jet’s Facebook profile (facebook.com/braden.jet.5), which gained about 600 friends in less than three days, to promote the fundraiser.
“Braden Jet’s abilities as a therapy dog deserve to shine, and in doing so, Billy’s abilities get to shine and so do Ashley’s and Patti’s,” said Waters. “Just because your body isn’t how it is supposed to be, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a great life and show off your abilities. It’s empowering so many people are coming together to support Easter Seals and Braden Jet Partnering to help abilities shine is what we try to do.”
To donate to Braden Jet's fundraiser, visit easterseals-swfl.org. Easter Seals policy withholds patients' last names.