Local family fundraising for autism service dog

Annabella is hoping to fundraise enough for a service dog.

The Drake Center for Veterinary Care in Encinitas has teamed up with a local family to fundraise for a service dog for a Carmel Valley 10-year-old. Annabella Lyszczarz, a Sage Canyon School fifth-grader, is hoping to be matched up with a service dog from Good Dog! Autism Companions, an organization dedicated to bringing the benefits of the human-canine relationship to children and families living with autism.

Annabella is the youngest of five children in a military family that has lived all over the world. She was born in Spain when her father was deployed in Kuwait.

Mom Heidi Lyszczarz said with her autism, Annabella’s life is often derailed by overwhelming emotions and meltdowns, particularly when leaving home and transitioning between activities. She has extreme anxiety and cannot be alone for even a few minutes. Additionally, she always needs someone to sleep with her, her anxiety exacerbated by nocturnal seizures she’s been suffering from since she was two years old.

“We believe a specially-trained service dog might just make her able to more fully experience life, instead of a day full of anxiety,” Heidi Lyszczarz said. “I think having a dog with her that is trained to help to calm her down would make a big difference for her.”

Good Dog needs to raise between $26,000 to $30,000 to raise, care and train for each dog as well as educate and support each family. They currently add 8-10 new teams each year as well as support 32 active Good Dog teams. To help offset the $26-$30,000 per team cost, families agree to raise $16,000 each—the Lyszczarz’s were grateful to find sponsorship from The Drake Center.

Once $8,000 is raised, Annabella will be placed on the waiting list for a dog. Good Dog matches each animal specifically with a child’s personalities and needs. Federally recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Annabella’s service dog will be allowed access wherever she goes, including school.

“We are excited to see the changes and joy an autism service dog will provide in Annabella’s day to day life,” Lyszczarz said, adding that the dog could help decrease anxiety, assist with social interactions, provide deep pressure support and tactile stimulation, improve sleep quality and provide companionship.

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