Community rallies to get service dog for autistic boy

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Dog currently in training until August

COLUMBUS — A Tryon Elementary School kindergartener is currently waiting on his forever friend — though this dog will be extra special.

Jase Scruggs, 5, son of Jamie and Andy Scruggs, of Columbus, is autistic and is in need of a service dog.

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The dog, Charlie, a goldendoodle, is 4 months old and was donated to the family from a local breeder, K&B Infinity Standards.

The community is now rallying to help the family pay for Charlie’s training. Sam Gamez, from All Around Dog Training out of Charlotte, is currently training Charlie to specifically protect Jase.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is raising money for Charlie’s training.

Jase was diagnosed as severely autistic and mentally delayed in 2015 and has been treated for seizures since 2016. He is considered nonverbal due to an inability to communicate since he cannot speak or understand how to express his wants or needs. 

“Jase doesn’t think and learn like everyone else,” Jamie said. “He has no concept of danger. He would run in front of a car if given the chance.”

That exact scenario happened about three months ago. Jamie said she was trying to get Jase out of the car to walk him into school and Jase darted from her. She missed him by an inch and he ran away and almost got hit by a car. Luckily, the man saw her screaming and stopped, she said.

“Jase is so fast,” Jamie said. “Charlie and Jase will be tethered together, and Jase will hopefully learn when Charlie stops, he stops. Charlie should also be able to slow Jase down enough to where I can get to him.”

Charlie will be with Jase everywhere he goes, including school. The service dog will be able to calm Jase by laying on him and giving him deep pressure. Charlie will also be trained in search and rescue, so if Jase ever becomes lost, Charlie will be trained to find him.

“Charlie will help Jase with giving him some independence such as walking alone,” Jamie said. “Since Jase doesn’t sleep much, Charlie can also help with that.”

Jamie said it has always been the family’s goal to get a service dog for Jase, but that goal intensified when 6-year-old Maddox, who was also special needs, recently drowned in a river in Gaston County after he took off running from his father.

“This has become very important to us to have Charlie for Jase’s safety physically, as well as mentally,” Jamie said.

Those interested in donating may send checks to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, 164 Government Complex Drive, Columbus, NC 28722. Donations can also be dropped off in person.

Checks must be marked either for “Jase Service Dog” or “Charlie Service Dog.”

Those interested in learning more may call the sheriff’s office at 828-894-3001.