Hickory mother wants to educate community on service dogs

Family raising awareness of service dogs

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Caroline Coley is doing what any mother would do, she’s trying to give her son with autism the best life she can.

Her 6-year-old son Camden was diagnosed with severe autism when he was 2 1/2 years old.

“It was definitely heart breaking as a mother because nobody wants their child to have to struggle and especially a lifelong struggle,” Coley said.

After years of researching how she could help him, she decided on a service dog.

“It’s hard for him to make friends," she said. "It’s hard to watch him not be able to interact with children. I wanted him to be able to have a companion.”

She shared their story on Facebook, catching the attention of a Mooresville breeder who decided to donate Luna.

The cane corso went through specialized training in Florida.

“She sleeps in their room,” Coley said. “We would like for her to be able to alert us if he was to get up and walk out of the room. Some dogs are able to hit doorbells.”

They’re already seeing Luna’s effect on Camden, but they weren’t prepared for how others respond.

“We were denied getting our room cleaned for three nights on our stay when were picking Luna up and training with her in Florida," she said. "The lady was scared of dogs.”

She says it happened at another hotel when they were denied concierge service until Luna was put outside.

“I don’t feel as though if you were in a wheelchair they would ask you to put your wheelchair on the back porch to render services to you,” she said.

Now she’s making it her mission.

“To help others and help employers in businesses to know what autism looks like or what an intellectual disability looks like and how they can help that family feel the most comfortable possible,” she said.

Coley hopes businesses like hotels can get to the point where they pass out pamphlets or speak with guests up front about how they can work with you and your service animal.

She doesn’t know of other families in the Hickory area with a service dog, but she wants to work with others in our community to raise awareness.

Click here to follow along with her journey.

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