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Local Mom Organizes Fundraiser to Provide Service Dog for Son with Down Syndrome

Carrie (Ferriss) Pugh, a dedicated mother is spearheading a fundraising campaign to secure a service dog for her son, John Jr., who has Down Syndrome. John Jr., affectionately known as “Captain Can’t Sit Still of the SS Make a Break For It” on account of his boundless energy, requires a service dog to ensure his safety and well-being.

Carrie, explained the challenges they face with her son’s elopement tendencies, saying, “He just doesn’t like to stay anywhere. Once he figures out a way, there’s no stopping him.” Recognizing the need for a solution, Carrie began to do research on how she could help her son and discovered a heartwarming story about a girl with autism who overcame her elopement issues with the help of a service dog.

Inspired by the story, Carrie sought out the organization that had helped the girl, Merlin’s Kids, a renowned organization based in New Jersey that trains service dogs for children with disabilities like autism and Down Syndrome. Merlin’s Kids has a facility located in Centertown, Missouri, roughly two and a half hours away, and they have already approved John Jr. for a service dog. 

The cost of training and acquiring a service dog for John Jr. amounts to more than $30,000. The high cost of service dogs can be attributed to several factors. These dogs undergo rigorous training that includes tasks tailored to specific disabilities and conditions, such as autism or Down Syndrome, and more. The training takes time, expertise, and resources, all of which contribute to the overall cost. Additionally, service dogs require comprehensive medical care, including vaccinations, regular check-ups, and potential specialized treatments. Organizations like Merlin’s Kids rescue and rehabilitate shelter dogs, which adds to the expenses involved in their care and training. 

John Jr. with his sister Judith (5) (submitted photo).

The service dog will be trained to ‘tether’ to John Jr., helping to prevent him from eloping. It will also help him stay calm and grounded, thanks to its training to detect cortisol levels (hormones that indicate high levels of stress). Also, the dog will be trained to identify respiratory distress, specifically related to John Jr.’s sleep apnea. In case John Jr. manages to elope unnoticed, the dog will be trained to track him effectively.

Carrie emphasized that the service dog will greatly enhance John Jr.’s safety and overall well-being. His observant nature, despite being mostly nonverbal, necessitates constant supervision to prevent any dangerous situations. The service dog will not only provide companionship but also assist John Jr. in better communicating with others.

To raise funds for John Jr.’s service dog, Carrie has organized various initiatives. Donation jars have been placed at local establishments such as Ace Hardware, D&S Guns, and Rite Way. However, due to her work schedule, Carrie has been limited in her ability to promote the fundraiser extensively. Nevertheless, she remains committed to reaching their fundraising goal.

Carrie hopes the community will participate in the fundraising effort, making donations to support her son’s journey toward acquiring a service dog. She believes the service dog will be a “game-changer” for John Jr., helping him navigate daily challenges and improving his quality of life.

For more information about John Jr.’s fundraiser and to make a donation, visit the Merlin’s Kids Fundraising page for John Jr.

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1 thought on “Local Mom Organizes Fundraiser to Provide Service Dog for Son with Down Syndrome”

  1. You can check out more of John Jr’s (#captaincantsitstillssmakeabreakforit ) story on his Facebook fundraiser page:
    Thank you Josh and Courtney Cole for doing a story about us to help us reach our goal, we are so very greatful for all the help we receive in this endeavor.

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