Service Dogs

November 2018 Graduation: Excerpts from Caroline's Speech

Caroline Sandler 2.jpg

To every puppy raiser, ever, the selfless act of raising a puppy for another person is one of pure and innocent kindness. Lyons’ raisers are here today. And we thank you; you represent all raisers. Your hands, your voice, your love, your grit, your determination, your tears and your laughter are now captured forever in the heart of the dog you so lovingly raised.  Thank you.

To all of our supporters, BluePath would still be in the infant stage without you. You are a critical and radiant component to our journey forward. Thank you for taking that leap of faith with us, so quickly and so confidently, that we find ourselves, less than two years old, graduating our first class. Your words of encouragement have been especially important. They are the fuel to our fire as we forge forward entering realms we have never tackled before. Thank you. 

Board members, you continue to push us and never let us limit ourselves. When we reach the stars, you will be there to tell us to go higher. Thank you.

Guide Dog Foundation, you called to say you have an adult dog whose temperament might be a better fit for our work than for theirs. Two weeks later, Sonny joined our path. A month later, you call again, and another adult dog, the beautiful Lyons, joins us as well. Thank you for valuing our mission and choosing to partner with us.

To our fosters. In the last year, 10 families have taken on the role of fostering dogs in their homes. The Trick family is here today, and they are fostering their second BluePath dog. You represent our local community that has stepped up in an incredible way. Thank you. 

To the families who have received these beautiful dogs. The road isn’t going to be easy, but then again, it never was. Sonny and Lyons have a big role in helping you move forward. Part of their job is easy - to bring more laughter. To bring your family together. Create joy. But the other part of the job is much more difficult. To provide safety so that your children may be better equipped to take more steps out in the world. To help your kids feel included in the world around them so that your family can better enjoy a soccer game, a restaurant, or a long, leisurely hike. Sonny and Lyons are ready.  Sonny and Lyons will step in, and they will say, “hey, we got this.”  And in time, you will realize that they do.

To Haedyn and Zayna, you are two young kids who do not understand how unsafe you can be. Sonny and Lyons are here for you. They will dig deep and level the playing field for you. Together, with your dogs, the world will become safer and with safety comes opportunity, independence, and friendship. The dogs will share your anxiety, your fears, and probably some of your chicken nuggets. But they won’t leave you and they won’t judge you.

Families, we are with you today. We are with you tomorrow. We are with you in the days and weeks and years ahead. When you signed on for a BluePath dog, you don’t just leave here with a dog, your family just got infinitely bigger and infinitely stronger and your hardships and your accomplishments will be shared by so many more shoulders.

Today is a historic occasion and I am overwhelmingly honored to be here. BluePath has no limits - of that I am sure.

Thank you. 

Our BluePath

by Tricia Zarro, Board Chair

If life is like a journey, then life with a child with autism is a journey through the woods at night, in the dark, in a snowstorm.

My world came to a crashing halt 11 years ago when my son Danny was diagnosed with autism. I was suddenly thrown onto a path in the woods that I had no idea how to navigate. I felt lost and I realized that I had so much to learn.  I had no idea how to get  “out of the woods” - or even how to travel my new path safely while providing my son with the comfort he needed.  He had to deal with his frustrations with language delay and sensory needs, as well as his social isolation from his peers and even from his family who loved him dearly.  Our path in the woods was incredibly bumpy and often very isolated.

It was during this time that I met Caroline McCabe-Sandler. She was a bright light in a dark night. She understood my fears for my son and also had an incredible talent in training autism service dogs. She matched the perfect dog to my son and helped solidify a partnership that worked for Danny and for our family. With our autism service dog Shade tethered to my son, I felt empowered to venture out and try things that were once impossible for us. Where I once had fear, I now had hope. This form of hope had four legs and wore a blue vest.

I now had a tool with which to help me navigate this dark and dangerous journey we were on. With Shade by our side, we felt security on our new path. Supermarket trips, amusement parks, soccer games, and the beach were all places that we ventured out to now with a feeling of safety and comfort. Caroline led us and continued to support us as we ventured back into our lives that existed before autism.

I am so proud to chair the Board of BluePath, an organization that will help people with autism unlock life’s potential. The mission to offer safety, companionship and opportunities for independence is one that is very personal for me. Because of my autism service dog, my son’s journey and our family’s journey has had more joy, more safety and more social experiences then I could have ever imagined. As we walk our “blue path,” we walk it tethered to an autism service dog. I am forever grateful.  

Danny Zarro and Shade

Danny Zarro and Shade