Yes! Our Outreach Committee has decided to use any special offerings we receive at the two services on Christmas Eve to help fund the training of Max the poodle as a service dog for Evan, son of Genia and Amber LaNore. “Special offerings” means any offering in the plate not in a pledge envelope or otherwise marked as a pledge.
Why Evan needs a service dog
As you may know, Evan suffered a brain injury in a bicycle crash when he was 5. He needs a service dog to help keep him emotionally balanced, to notice when Evan is losing control of his emotions, to be a source of love, friendship and help.
The service dog training facility Genia and Amber contacted recommended a poodle puppy because they’re smart, loving, and easy to train. Last fall they found “Clyde,” born last July. Evan said his puppy picture looked “grumpy just like I get sometimes, so he’ll understand me.”
Getting Max trained
Evan goes to a special school in Farmington Hills, and Max lives at a service dog training camp about 16 minutes away. Working with Max is part of Evan’s Behavioral Therapy program so his therapist takes Evan to the training camp as part of their time together. Evan has been working with Max for a few hours once a week, and starting in January, Evan will be spending an additional evening there with Max and the trainer.
Max is doing great at learning all his basic skills, Sit, Down, Come, Stay, Place and of course potty training. In a report on Dec. 6, trainer Luke wrote:
Evan did fantastic with Max on his visit on Tuesday. Evan went over each of Max’s commands for his therapist and did a great job. Evan’s body language and hand signals were perfect and Max followed through on each command on the first ask.
Max was super focused on Evan, and it was a perfect combination of Max’s smarts and Evan having learned how to communicate with him. Max was very happy to see Evan and wanted to spend the entire visit with him. Sometimes Max wants to come sit by me or looks at me for approval, but this time he was glued to Evan the whole time.
Service dog training is expensive. By the time Max is fully trained, Genia and Amber will have spent upwards of $10,000 on training alone. Then there are transportation costs.
The facility where Evan lives will bring Evan home to West Michigan for visits, they won’t bring Max since he’s not yet a certified service dog. So, when the family wants them home together, they have to drive over (about 6 hours and a tank of gas) to get them and then again to return them after the visit (another 6 hours and another tank of gas).
Max was home for Thanksgiving and came to Holy Trinity for Advent 1. He was so great during the service! He sat up while we were standing to sing and laid at Evan’s feet when we sat, which is exactly what he’s supposed to do.
Service dogs are generally 14-16 months when they are fully trained and ready to partner with their people full time. So we’re expecting that they won’t be a full team ready to work until the end of 2020. Then, the hope is that Max will be able to keep Evan stable enough to live at home with his moms and attend school here.
If you’d like to make a contribution to Max’s training, please drop it in the offering plate Christmas Eve or send it to the church marked “Evan & Max fund.” Or, if you aren’t around but would still like to donate (just not through Holy Trinity), you can go to the Evan & Max GoFundMe page.