Denver family seeks help to raise money for child’s service dog

By on November 25, 2014
Caiden Weik

Caiden Weik

Shelley and Dale Weik are hoping for a special Christmas gift; a service dog for their son, Caiden.
The seven-year-old student at Cocalico Elementary School was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder earlier this year and his family is seeking to raise money to purchase a service dog through Tough Love German Shepherds, Marshville, N.C.
“My main concern with Caiden is with safety. When he’s scared, say by a loud noise, he runs to get away from whatever is scaring him. His instinct is to flee, so he could run out into a street. A service dog can get in front of him to prevent him from running into a dangerous situation and if he does run away, the dog will alert me. The dog should also have a calming effect on Caiden,” Shelley Weik explained. “When paired with a service dog, children on the autism spectrum often have improved sleep patterns, increased social interaction and better ability to express themselves.”
The Denver mom said that Caiden’s dog is a puppy, which Caiden named Marshall, and was born Sept. 30.
“We thought a puppy would be perfect. The small size won’t intimidate Caiden and the two can grow up together,” she said.
The cost of the service dog is $5,000, but Weik said that the organization will allow the dog to be trained and to come home with its new family as soon as $2,000 is raised. Two fundraisers have been planned; a fundraiser night at Isaac’s Famous Grilled Sandwiches in the Cloister Shopping Center on Sunday, Dec. 7 and a bake sale at the Shop Shopper Grocery Outlet, 1041 Sharp Ave., Ephrata, on Saturday, Dec. 13.
Once the dog is home with the family, training will continue for both Caiden and the service dog.
Weik said that Tough Love German Shepherds provide at-home training materials and support.
Caiden’s older brother, Van, said that he will help Caiden feed and walk the service dog.
Weik doesn’t plan to have the service dog attend school with Caiden since she said that he does well in school and has an aide to assist him.
“The service dog will be a puppy when we bring it home, but it will grow. I’m sensitive to the fact that some kids are afraid of big dogs, so I don’t want anyone to be uncomfortable at school,” she said.
It’s the other times where the dog’s skills will help ensure Caiden’s safety. Weik said that by looking at Caiden, you can’t really tell he struggles with a disability.
She explained that he doesn’t quite look you in the eye when talking to you and he can have a far-off distance kind of look about him. Also, when he does try to have a conversation, he can repeat the same question over and over again, he loses his train of thought in the middle of a conversation and sometimes he loses interest before you even answer. She said he enjoys talking to adults and he is great at remembering names, but it is a struggle to talk to children his own age.
She said that Caiden also has mobility and balance issues, so his pace is slow but steady.
“He works three times as hard as other children his age because of his disability. He has OT (occupational therapy), PT (physical therapy) and speech lessons at school and after a long hard day at school he has private PT every other week,” she explained, “Everyday little things most children can do without even thinking about, Caiden struggles with. He can’t go outside to play by himself, ever. He needs pretty much constant supervision. Going out to eat at a restaurant can be a disaster at times. Grocery shopping can be pleasant or it can be a nightmare.”
Weik said that the family doesn’t do a lot of things together outside the home since Caiden doesn’t like crowds or waiting in line. Surprises, even good ones, aren’t welcomed.
“He doesn’t know how to handle the unexpected. One time, we went out to eat at Burger King. Caiden’s nose started to bleed, a lot. He panicked and was screaming because he didn’t know what was happening. We tried to calm him down, but his nose just wouldn’t stop bleeding. He was crying and screaming and blood was getting all over the front of his shirt and his hands. Of course, as a parent, it can be embarrassing when things like that happen and I hope that other people would be understanding,” she said.
But although having an autistic child can be challenging, exhausting and overwhelming, Weik said it’s also very rewarding.
“Caiden is a trooper. He gets pushed to his limits and beyond sometimes. Sometimes he has meltdowns. Other times, he rides it out. He struggles every day. Some days are good, some days are bad. I wish he could explain how all this makes him feel, but for now, it isn’t going to happen. I want to do all I can to help him succeed and a service dog can help,” Weik said.
Anyone wishing to make a donation and cannot attend one of the scheduled fundraisers, can visit: gofundme.com/TeamCaiden or mail directly to Tough Love German Shepherds on Caiden’s behalf: to Tough Love German Shepherds, attn: Kayla Haigler, 3605 Camden Road, Marshville, N.C. 28103 (checks should be marked for Team Caiden).

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