FRANKLIN, Mass. - It's been said that every boy deserves a dog.
There's a little boy in Franklin who, his family says, needs a dog, to keep him alive. And not just any dog will do.
Six-year-old P.J. Maxfield cannot speak but has a quality some guys would envy.
“He's not afraid of anything. He has no fear whatsoever,” Kristie Maxfield, P.J.’s mother.
P.J. has autism and his lack of fear extends to things towards which a healthy dose of apprehension isn't such a bad thing.
“He's very attracted to water. He's very attracted to the road,” said Kristie.
Many children who have autism are attracted to water. According to AutismSpeaks.org, the leading cause of death for those with autism after wandering is accidental drowning.
The Maxfields also live on a busy street in Franklin. Along with having autism, PJ has a cleft in his Larynx, PICA disorder, which makes him want to eat nonedible materials, and he had a malformation on his brain, which led to brain surgery as a baby. With his health issues, his parents have been working to let him live the best life he can and want to allow him some freedom like any other child.
“He's rambunctious... and full of energy... and loves to run... and loves to get out of the house,” said Kristie.
The Maxfields have learned the hard way that when P.J. wants to get out, he will.
“There's locks upon locks...but still. The dead-bolt lock...he knows how to open it. He'll push the chair over and open it up,” said his grandmother, Karen Szafir.
Desperate for a way to keep P.J. safe, the Maxfields came upon a unique option a special kind of service dog, bred and trained in North Carolina.
Recently they were able to test one of the dogs out for a week and it was like magic.
“It was one of those life altering things that just said, okay, I have to do whatever I can to make this happen,” said Kristie.
Standing in the way of making it happen is the cost of the service dog – each one costs nearly $15,000.
Not only is the dog expensive because of the training, but the breed. The breed is called a Briard, a rare type of herding dog especially well-suited to help those with autism.
Briard are devoted but willing to act to keep owner's safe, including taking them down. They can also stop P.J. from eating things that are not edible, ease his anxiety and help with sleep patterns.
“A scraped knee is a lot better than a little boy getting hit by a car,” said Kristie.
That little boy has a little dog with a name already picked out - 'Teddy' is waiting if the Maxfield's can raise the funds.
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