Kaitlyn Eliason and Autism Assist Dog Yummy
By Caty Taborda-Whitt
Seven-year-old Kaitlyn Eliason of Lakeville, Minnesota, loves the newly discovered freedom of putting her face in the water during swim lessons, something she wasn’t comfortable attempting just a few months ago before her Autism Assist Dog, Yummy, entered the picture.
Kaitlyn has autism, and for years has struggled with anxiety, meltdowns, and trouble focusing on tasks. Her diagnosis came during a preschool evaluation when she was just over three years old, months after her parents Karen and Frederick first became concerned that some of Kaitlyn’s behaviors differed from those of her peers at daycare. Her parents scrambled to find the best resources and programs for Kaitlyn, and were desperate to do anything and everything they could to support her.
Even after enrolling Kaitlyn in extensive therapy and a preschool suited to support children with autism, Karen still remembers crying at night, asking, “What am I going to do for my little girl? What are all the things I should be doing? What else can I do?”
Karen began doing internet searches about assistance dogs and came across Can Do Canines, but it wasn’t until she started fillingout the application that she realized the organization is based right here in the Twin Cities. Can Do Canines matched Kaitlyn with Yummy, a happy, cuddly Golden Retriever/Labrador Retriever mix. Within a few short weeks, the whole family noticed a big difference in Kaitlyn’s confidence and comfort levels.
With Yummy by her side, Kaitlyn no longer struggles with many of her former anxiety triggers. Trips to Target with mom, for example, had previously been a challenge, as Kaitlyn might wander off or have a meltdown at the sight of automatic doors or scary Halloween decoration displays. Now, thanks to her pal Yummy, Kaitlyn is more comfortable in many public settings and situations that once upset her. She embraces putting her face in the water during swim lessons, can sit still during family meals at restaurants, and even sleeps through the night in her own bed—all things that came about after Yummy entered her life.
Yummy’s a big hit with family and friends, too. She plays fetch with Kaitlyn’s five-year-old brother, Eric, and is quiet and respectful of everyone. The neighbors can hardly believe that a dog could be so well behaved!
Kaitlyn’s parents are eternally grateful for Yummy and Can Do Canines. “She’s terrific and she’s definitely making an impact on our daughter’s life and on our lives,” they say. “She was something we dreamed about and prayed for.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Raiser: Kelly Lindemann
Special Thanks: Lindsay Merkel, the Lindemann family, Laura Waudby
You: Thank you for your donations!