FREDERICKSBURG, Va. – Viewers were first introduced to Captain America, the German Shepard last fall. The one-year-old is on his way to becoming a certified service dog for Jenna Eddy’s son, Easton, who has autism.
From the expenses, to the sometimes years-long wait, the single mom of three knows how challenging the process of getting the right service dog can be.
“They’re trained totally separate from your family, and you maybe have a week or two where you’re kind of crash coursed on how to handle the dog,” said Eddy.
This is why Eddy chose a different path for Captain America, also known as Cap.
“We had reached out to Vera and kind of created a system that we thought would work better,” she said.
That system, has now turned into a new nonprofit called Lead with Love.
It was started by Jenna and Cap’s trainer, Vera Symonds as a way to help other families.
The two focus on early bonding with the dogs and children.
“We find that when we start them at a young age with a young dog we build that confidence and their social skills, and that fear just diminishes,” said Symonds.
Symonds has years of training and breeding experience. She goes with the families to help pick out the dog from a breeder, looking at their behaviors and characteristics.
“We went through the screening process for finding the right dog and breeding them for that need, and that’s when we found Abby,” she said.
Right now, Abby, Reuben, and Max are all current members of the program.
Max will work with a child who has severe epilepsy.
Reuben and Abby have forever homes with two children with autism.
“With Abby, her boy is non-verbal, and he’s very sensitive to touch and sound but he knows that’s his dog, that’s his first word he’s been able to say,” said Symonds.
While Lead with Love is just getting started, Jenna Eddy and Vera hope families will experience the kind of joy that Captain America has brought the Eddy family.
“To be able to help somebody do something that I really wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to do is very exciting,” said Eddy.