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The best way to learn about the impact a PAWS Dog has in the life of a person with a disability is to hear directly from a client who's been matched with one.

We’re honored to share with you the story of Gavin and PAWS Dog BENNETT, his Service Dog for Children with Autism.

Your support of PAWS each year makes partnerships like Gavin and BENNETTs possible. We hope they'll inspire you to believe that you can make a difference to another, waiting PAWS client this year!



Paws with a Cause


At Paws With A Cause®, we believe that everyone has the power to make a difference in the lives of those with disabilities, because we see it happen every day. As a PAWS® supporter you created a better life for PAWS Clients, clients like Gavin.

Gavin was diagnosed with regressive Autism when he was two years old. His family watched Gavin go from a bright vivacious boy to one who started to withdraw, lose his speech and develop an almost obsessive need for certain items. His mother Heather said, “It was a shock because up to that point he had hit all of his developmental milestones.” But Gavin’s parents jumped in with both feet, exploring different therapies to help their son, including a PAWS Assistance Dog.

Then tragedy struck when Gavin’s father passed away unexpectedly. Heather said, “When I lost the person that was everything to Gavin, I knew that I needed all the help that I could get.” That’s what made Heather decide to contact PAWS and apply for a Service Dog for Children with Autism.

Heather knew there would be a wait for Gavin to receive his Assistance Dog, but she didn’t worry because she believed, “If it was meant to be, it would be.” Then Heather received a call. PAWS had a potential match for Gavin named BENNETT, a sweet, black Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever mix. As soon as she heard the name BENNETT, Heather believed this was the perfect match. Bennett is not only Gavin’s middle name, but also the middle name of his father.

“With BENNETT, Gavin didn’t need words. There was an instant connection and understanding between them,” said Heather. A week after BENNETT went home with his new family, Gavin had a meltdown. His family gave him space knowing there was little they could do except wait, but BENNETT didn’t hesitate. He trotted right up to Gavin and redirected him. Distracted and focused on the dog, Gavin settled down. Heather shared, “It was one of the quicker meltdown turnarounds we had ever seen.”

Over the years, Gavin and BENNETT have continued to grow as a team. When Gavin is feeling overwhelmed he reaches out for BENNETT and that contact helps to center Gavin and stops him from having a meltdown. Heather explained, “I think the beautiful thing about having BENNETT, is not only the companionship, but he brings a sense of peace and calm that Gavin relies on when he can’t control his environment.”

Gavin is not the only one that has benefited from having BENNETT. Heather said, “Kids who are affected by this disability sometimes look so normal. If they have a meltdown in the store, society immediately starts judging and it makes you feel like a horrible parent. Now that we have BENNETT, he has given me so much more confidence. He has opened the door for our family to be more socially accepted. We are very proud and feel blessed to have BENNETT. He has become a part of each and every one of our hearts.”

At PAWS, we are very proud and grateful for your past support. It is your generosity that made teams like Gavin and BENNETT possible.

We estimate it costs $30,000 to raise, custom-train and support each Assistance Dog Team. Will you consider giving this year to ensure that the more than 60 people waiting for a PAWS Assistance Dog will feel the confidence that Gavin and his family now experience?

Believe that you can make a difference, because you can!



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"With BENNETT, Gavin didn't need words. There was an instant understanding between them."