ROSEVILLE -- As an 8-year-old with autism and Down syndrome, Livvy Herrington will be the first with the dual diagnosis to receive a very special friend from a therapy dog nonprofit.
Thanks to the nonprofit Good Dog! Autism Companions, a golden retriever service dog named Ollie will become part of Livvy's family on Nov. 10.
Christien Sirianni, who works with Good Dog, has experienced first hand how life-changing such a service dog can mean to a family. Hope was paired with Sirianni's autistic 12-year-old son, Braeden, two years ago.
"So often you're tempted to not bring your child with you because they're nervous, their anxiety is on high. When you have a service dog with you people get it. People read the vest and see that it says 'Good Dog! Autism,'" Sirianni told FOX40. "Some of his strange noises and things like that make sense. And then for him his anxiety is almost nonexistent as long as we have Hope with us."
Beth Herrington, Livvy's mother, hopes Ollie will help break down some of the barriers Livvy has experienced so far.
"She gets a lot of stares. She's very vocal," Herrington said. "We really wanna encourage people to come up to us and ask about her. And I think bringing a dog, because they're so wonderful and everybody loves dogs, so I think bringing the dog everywhere it'll encourage people to come over."
They also hope Ollie helps to end behavioral outbursts.
"One of the tasks that the dog will specifically have is disrupt those behaviors, keep her from hurting herself and redirect her toward something positive," said Livvy's father, Lee.
In the short amount of time that Livvy's come to know Hope, who happens to be her neighbor, she's allowed the dog to get close to her. She sees Hope as her friend.
There will be a fundraiser to help Livvy's family from 6 to 9 p.m. on Sunday at Top Golf in Roseville.