Rhodesian Ridgeback has a way with autism
While most sports media attention this week was focused on the Vancouver Olympics and the mea culpa of Tiger Woods, a major sporting event of a different sort was going on: The Westminster Dog Show. And one of the stars of this annual event was Wyatt, a year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback who has a special ways with people who have special needs. His owner, Janice Wolfe, told the New York Daily News that Wyatt senses the needs of people with autism and other disabilities and is her partner in Merlin’s Kids, a nonprofit organization she runs to provide service animals to those who might benefit. “The second he was born I felt this amazingly wise, sage-like energy from him,” she told the newspaper. Wolfe, who describes herself as a Dog Whisperer, works with Wyatt to evaluate the person and then finds a compatible dog for each child through petfinder.com or one of the animal shelters around the country. Service animals often help calm, focus, and encourage social behaviors in people with autism. Wolfe, a breeder from Wyckoff, NJ, provides the service animals free of charge. But she estimates it costs $5,000 to $10,000 to train each one. She funds Merlin’s Kids by breeding Ridgebacks, dogwhispering and speaking fees, she told the newspaper. For more information, contact www.merlinskids.org or www.NJDogWhisperer.com.