8-year-old hopes for match with best friend

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There are few things more special than a boy and his dog. It is a true love match with unconditional love on both sides.

For eight-year-old Michael Benjamin Sears, a second grader at Peter's Elementary school in a self-contained classroom, he is hoping to get his love match from a service dog named Gigi, who is currently in North Carolina.

Michael's mom Elyse explained his diagnosis and how they currently deal with the situation.

"Michael Benjamin started receiving early intervention services at Meeting Street School when he was two years old,” she said. “He got speech, OT, and PT. He eventually aged out of that program, and was enrolled at the Children's Neurodevelopment Center [CNDC] at Hasbro. He also was getting services from the Kates program through Cedar and was getting Home based treatment service to help with behavior issues such as meltdowns. His full diagnosis is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ADHD, Sensory disorder and Global Developmental Delay. He has problems with impulse control; he will run into the street to chase a ball, he has no sense of stranger danger. We are very diligent about never turning our backs on him.”

His lack of impulse control often leads to many unsafe behaviors.

"He will think nothing of running into the street to chase a ball,” she said. “There are times when he simply does not respond. My neighbor actually saw him hanging upside down out a second floor window watching balloons flying in the sky.”

The family recently traveled to North Carolina to visit Ry-con Service Dogs, a kennel that specializes in breeding service dogs for children and adults with Autism.

This is where Michael Benjamin met and fell in love with Gigi.

"The bond between the two of them was instant and amazing,” Elyse said. “Gigi had originally been trained for another child, but since she developed cancer, the family returned her to Ry-Con. Within only three hours, we were out in stores with Gigi. Ry-Con asked if we wanted to take her for the night, and the bond simply grew and was solidified.”

What was going to be a 10-month wait and fundraising opportunity has now turned into a five-week rush to get things in place.

"The trainer is flying up here with Gigi for June 20. The costs are very high, and we are holding events and started a GoFundMe page to help with the expenses," she said.

His teachers and Principal are all aware of the service dog.

"Michael functions well in a very small group and he is progressing at this time,” Elyse said. “I don't feel the dog will be at school but that could change down the road. The dog is very calming for Michael. I found him to be less impulsive, his anxiety was way down. Michael has fixations with balls – he will run in front of cars the dog is trained to curb him from the street. The dog is trained for safety reasons, she will find him when he doesn't answer. He will talk to any adult but not with peers, so having this dog will help him gain social skills with peers, but most importantly, she will keep my son safe.”

Michael feels she will be his best friend and help him.

Besides the GoFundMe page, the family is holding a pasta dinner at Legends Pub & Grub on Park Avenue on June 2 from 2-8 pm. There are no advance tickets being sold. Dinner is $20 for adults and $10 for children.

If you would like to help bring Michael and Gigi together, visit www.gofundme.com/service-for-michael.

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