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Best buddies: Ashland boy bonds with long-awaited service dog
Daily Independent - 9/15/2023
Sep. 15—ASHLAND — Dog is man's best friend — and boy's best friend.
Aiden Adkins and his service dog, Rotelli, are living proof.
The 15-year-old sophomore at Ashland Blazer High School has been diagnosed with epilepsy, autism, severe ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety, weather-related PTSD, asthma, allergies and mixed receptive expressive disorder, which is a communication disorder in which both the receptive and expressive areas of communication may be affected in any degree. He bonded quickly with his service dog after a long journey to raise the funds and get the dog.
"It was three years we waited between the fundraising and waiting for our class date, but we finally have her and she has already made a huge difference in Aiden's life," the boy's mother, Paula Profit, said. The class date is when they begin learning to handle the dog, which was obtained through 4 Paws Ability in Xenia, Ohio.
After they lost both their 15-year-old dogs in 2020, Profit said she thought it was time to try to get a service dog.
"I always wanted to get him one, but it was too much," she said, noting they started the process in July 2020 and fundraising the following month. Moves to earn money toward the dog, which cost $17,000, included selling T-shirts, began in earnest.
But Profit said they came up short.
To boost their morale, she and Adkins visited 4 Paws Ability, where they learned Texas Barrels and Bottles Foundation had offered to help a family that was working hard but struggling to afford a dog. The charity paid $9,000 they needed to get on the waiting list for a dog.
In addition to going to class, the process leading up to Adkins getting Rotelli included matching the boy and the dog.
"We go over the details of what you want in a dog and what tasks that the dog needs to perform," Profit said. Rotelli was trained for behavior disruption, tethering and tracking, which might be the most important task.
Profit said he "elopes," which means he is a flight risk when triggered. She said he wears a GPS tracking device. "He sees no danger and has no fear," his mother said. "He can be triggered by a number of things, including thunder or wind."
Rotelli is trained to find him and she's laser-focused on getting the job done.
"So far, we've done 24 practice tracks. The last time was the most significant one," Profit said. "She was bound and determined she was going to find him, and she found him in less than a minute. She finds him every time, It's amazing to watch."
Although black, Rotelli's mother was a golden lab and father a golden retriever.
"She is very, very, very smart and their bond already is so amazing," Profit said. "By the second day, they already had bonded and typically, dogs don't start with the client right away, but their bond was so strong. It probably would have traumatized her if she didn't go to school with him."
Profit acts as the dog's handler, so the two humans and dog are a three-unit team. There are those who can act as handlers at school, too.
"Aiden has behavioral issues, so he can't be the hander if he's having a meltdown," Profit said. "Aiden can give certain commands and he can get her on the bus without help, and a few other commands. She respects him as a kind of handler."
She said the dog can help Aiden stay away from self-injurious and aggressive behaviors and can be trained to warn of seizures, although medication has made them much less frequent.
Adkins hasn't eloped since Rotelli came into his life, but he can still be triggered; with Rotelli's diligent search and recovery of the boy, mom is more assured of a positive outcome.
"It's give Aiden a little more independence and I'm able to do more around the house and he doesn't follow me," Profit said of having the dog. She said he sleeps better through the night, allowing her to get some much-needed rest, too.
He's also learning responsibility.
"He wants to take care of her and the biggest thing is, I told him, 'She's your dog. You have to pick up her poop.' He said he wasn't going to do it, but now if I walk her, he says, 'Tell me if she poops and I need to pick it up.' When he takes her outside at school and picks it up, he gets 15 minutes of phone time.
"The goal is for him to be the permanent handler, and to feed her, give her water, give her treats, brush her."
Having Rotelli has changed his social standing, too.
"It's made him more popular," Profit said. "He was known as the kid with behavior problems. Now, he's the kid with the dog, the only dog on campus. That's helping bridge that social barrier."
Profit said she's hopeful sharing their journey will help others, either to get accurate diagnoses or to obtain a service dog.
For more information, visit Aiden's Cause 4 Paws page on Facebook or contact Profit on her Facebook page or on Instagram at 4paws.rotelli_aiden.
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