Therapy dog interacts with children at monthly CAN meeting

Published 4:13 pm Monday, March 23, 2015

Sidney Kate Jennings, 5, pets certified therapy dog "Blaze" on March 19. Blaze was brought to the group by his owner, Linda Macom, to allow children at the Chilton Autism Network's meeting to interact with the dog.

Sidney Kate Jennings, Kaydence Hicks and Baylie Hicks pet certified therapy dog “Blaze” on March 19. Blaze was brought to the group by his owner, Linda Macom, to allow children at the Chilton Autism Network’s meeting the ability to interact with the dog.

For many parents with children who have autism, life can seem different and oftentimes remote from the experiences of other families.

In Chilton County, building a team of support with families who have similar backgrounds is a goal of the Chilton Autism Network. The group holds a monthly CAN meeting at New Life Community Church from 6:30-7:30 p.m.

“It has been really helpful to have families come together who have children with autism,” group organizer Misty Lechantre said. “We can come and spend time with each other and share stories or experiences. It is nice because we all have something in common.”

The group meets every third Thursday except for August and December, and is open to anyone of any age.

“The goal is to serve as a support group for people in Chilton County who have been affected by autism,” Lechantre said. “Parents can come and interact with other parents, and the kids can play and have a good time.”

According to, autism is a complex disorder of brain development which can be characterized in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.

On March 19, Linda Macom brought her certified therapy dog “Blaze” to the group for the kids to interact with the animal.

Blaze, a Red Standard Poodle, sat in the middle of the floor with children surrounding him reaching out to hug and pet him.

“He is a very patient dog,” Macom said. “Studies have shown that children with autism feel comfortable around animals because they don’t feel judged and it helps them to focus.”

Macom decided to train 6-year-old Blaze through a program sponsored by the Easter Seals called “Dogs on Call,” which certifies dogs to become therapy dogs.

“The class was hard but very rewarding,” Macom said. “We went through six weeks of school together to pass the certification.”

Macom, who lives in Verbena, brings Blaze to different events throughout Chilton County including social activities with senior citizens.

“Dogs have been known to help lower blood pressure,” Macom said. “They are very calming. Here Blaze is sitting here with a lot of noise from the kids and he isn’t bothered or doesn’t feel aggressive, and as a result, none of the children have any fear of him.”

The kids who come to the meeting are encouraged to run and play freely with their peers.

“It is good for them to be able to come together and just have fun,” Lechantre said. “Here they can go wild and crazy and have a good time. It helps for them to socialize and be with their friends and it especially helps the parents to be able to take time out of the week and meet with individuals who have similar backgrounds.”

The group is supported by the Alabama Autism Society and is currently holding a raffle for a $50 Visa gift card.

Anyone interested can purchase a raffle ticket for $1 with the winner being announced on the group’s Facebook page.

For more information, contact (205) 688-5565.