Family crusades to get assistance dog for daughter
At 5, Briley Miller faces a life of challenges, but the task her parents intend to tackle right now is getting her a trained assistance dog.
Briley, the daughter of Coty and Tori Miller, was diagnosed with autism at 3. She attends kindergarten at Marion Elementary School until 1 p.m., then goes home for daily sessions with an applied behavior analysis therapist who drives from Junction City to work with her.
The therapy helps Briley learn to deal with behaviors caused by her autism.
Children with autism typically exhibit repetitive behaviors called stimming — self-stimulating actions that typically involve repetitive movements or sounds. While not necessarily a bad thing, stimming can be disruptive and interfere with quality of life.
“She does a lot of vocal stimming, and a lot of kicking and things like that,” Tori Miller said. “She has some meltdowns.”
Briley is also nonverbal.
Briley’s therapist thought a service dog would be a good idea for her.
The dog could help calm her during a meltdown or stimming episode.
“If we are not watching her she will run away or, as they call it, elope,” Miller said. “The dog would be trained to alert us if she tries to get out of the house.”
The dog could bark if Briley tries to get out the door, or even stop her by grabbing her shirt.
The dog also could also help reduce Briley’s anxiety and build her social skills.
But service dogs don’t come cheap. A fully-trained autism dog can cost more than $45,000, Miller said.
The family has medical insurance, and a state program assists with the expenses of Briley’s autism.
“Of course it’s not covered on any of that,” Miller said.
The fact that Briley is allergic to dogs made the idea more daunting. Then the Millers learned that some dog breeds are low-shedding, which reduces allergic reactions.
She found a local breeder of goldendoodles, a low-shedding golden retriever and poodle crossbreed. Puppies sell for $1,150 each.
The Millers also found a dog training academy in Burrton.
The family started a GoFundMe page Sept. 21 in the hope of raising enough money to get Briley her dog. So far, that has raised $1,965 toward the $5,500 goal.
The Millers are also seeking grants from area organizations such as Marion Kiwanis, which is giving Briley $250 toward a dog.
Last modified Sept. 30, 2020