Sign In

Autism Service Dog

September 2, 2020

A festival this weekend will help raise money to train an autism service dog. The puppy will go to an 8-year-old girl in Elkhart County. It costs about $20,000 to train the dog.

Lexi Cheney was born with a myriad of medical issues. Her parents later found out she had autism, ADHD and a mild intellectual disability.

Lexi is a sweet girl, who loves markers, crayons and her “baby riley,” a stuffed whale she got as a baby.

Lexi’s mom, Rhonda Cheney, says Lexi’s cheerfulness can change in a second.

“She has two directions. It is either very unhappy or very happy,” says Cheney, “there are times when it is firing fast and she just makes choices and decisions based on what she wants at that second.”

That makes it difficult to take Lexi in public because she can wonder off and she has other behaviors typical of someone on the autism spectrum.

That’s where a service dog will come in.

“She will be able to corral. She is probably going to be large enough to stop, physically stop, Lexi from moving. If not she will have things she is trained to do to distract Lexi,” says Cheney.

Lexi picks at her skin. The dog will be able to see that happen and district her.

The dog will also help comfort Lexi and help her live her day to day life.

The family got a black poodle puppy for free from a breeder. She was born on Memorial day.

Her full name is Lady Liberty but everyone calls her Libby.

It will cost about $20,000 to train Libby, which takes about 18 months.

Right now, Libby is in the beginning stages of that training at Top Notch Service Dogs in Elkhart County.

Eventually, Libby will be Lexi’s constant companion — offering comfort, guidance, intervention, and most importantly, friendship.

“It is a gift. It is a precious thing for her to have somebody who is not judging her base on her behavior or looks or the way she operates. It is just a friend,” says Cheney.

The family is having a huge fundraiser this Saturday, September 5th.

The “A Friend for Lexi” event is at their Elkhart County property at 29330 Salt Lick Trail, Elkhart.

The outdoor festival starts at 5 p.m. and ends with fireworks.

It is free to attend. There will be food and craft vendors, a silent auction and bake sale.

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Former Victoria man’s diabetic alert dog helps him get back to life

    When Luke Hengen’s diabetes worsened in his early twenties, it stripped him of the outdoor activities where the country kid felt at home. Countless wilderness adventures and years of hard-fought football games took a toll on his body, to the point where he could no longer sense when his blood sugar was too high or […]

    Read more

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Puppy Cams

    A nonprofit is providing an unusual form of therapy for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic – puppy cams! “You spend five minutes with a puppy and try not to smile,” said registered nurse Robin Lingg Lagrone. Lingg Lagrone says watching little furballs wag their tails and prance on their paws helps […]

    Read more

    Pet Committee

    When Moore County’s school doors were abruptly closed earlier in 2020, two- and four-legged volunteers from the Moore County Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee (PRC) were in their 12th year of presenting a six-session Pet Responsibility Education Program for fourth-graders. The PRC quickly shifted gears and placed its program materials online as part of a home […]

    Read more