April 18, 2021


Keep Fit & Healthy

Service dog helps Queens boy with autism thrive

2 min read

Getting into a healthy routine during the pandemic hasn’t always been easy and some families are finding ways to get the extra help they need with professionals who are always by their side, on all four of their furry canine legs.

Peter LaPollo, of Queens, makes sure his mid-day play break on any given day is alongside his best friend, Cruze. In fact, the 7-year-old Queens boy and his furry companion are almost always together, and it’s changed Peter, and his parents’, lives. 

“Peter is a runner or an eloper, so he would run down the block, open the door and run out,” said Lorraine LaPolla, Peter’s mom. “We were always fearful he’d run on the street or get away from us and when we got Cruze that all changed. The anxiety is gone.”

Cruze and Peter both have harnesses.

“The two join us and Cruze is taught to keep Peter with us,” said Jay Frango, Peter’s step-dad.

Peter was diagnosed with autism when he was four. Then a year ago, his parents feared the pandemic would mean an even greater setback to his development, as the virus forced families to adjust their routines.

They needed to find a safe and nurturing outlet for their son.

Enter Cruze: a 3-year- old chocolate lab and a trained autism service dog, provided by BluePath, free of charge. 

“The support our dogs have provided through transitions in terms of reducing anxiety and being a constant grounded presence to help in situations with too much stimulus and offering families to get outside and go for walks,” said Michelle Brier, BluePath Service Dogs co-founder.

Through BluePath Service Dogs, Cruze and other canines are helping around 20 autistic kids across the tri-state region unlock life’s potential.

Plus, the companionship gives children plenty of reasons to smile during the shutdown. 

“They’re able to be a child’s best friend when verbal language isn’t important,” said Brier.

“He keeps him with us; he keeps him from running and keeps him happy too,” said LaPolla.

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