MANSFIELD, Ohio — A Mansfield family is raising money to get their son a service dog.
Maximus Quimby, who goes by Max, is eight years old. He is autistic and also has an autoimmune encephalitis disorder, which causes painful brain swelling.
“Sometimes we can't tell what he's dealing with, if it's necessarily autism or if it's [the autoimmune encephalitis],” said his mother, Linda Nunes-Quimby. “But it can also be really painful for him because it makes the brain feel like it's on fire inside of his skull.”
Max is “very active, very into all things science,” and a Star Wars buff, according to Nunes-Quimby.
“He likes to know the in-betweens of the stories of Star Wars,” Nunes-Quimby said. “Kind of a Lego maniac, video game maniac. He really loves vintage things, so he likes to play, like, old-school Mega Man that was made before I was born. He loves listening to Journey on his Google Player in his room. He listens to tons of music. One of his favorite movies is the original TRON.”
“He’s just kind of got his own uniqueness to him,” Nunes-Quimby said. “He's very intelligent and just a really special guy.”
Nunes-Quimby said Max struggles to connect socially with other people, especially his peers and had a difficult time in public school. He’s currently in the second grade and is homeschooled.
“We do his therapies and things through private sources like our therapy centers and pediatrician’s office,” she said.
Max has trouble connecting with adults sometimes, too, but his mother said the family noticed he “has a really strong connection with the two dogs we already have here at home. Unfortunately, neither of them are service dogs, but they're really good dogs, family dogs, and he just has such a close bond with them.”
Nunes-Quimby said Max will often lie down with the family dogs and pet them.
“He does really well when he's warm and has weight on him,” she said.
She and her wife had heard of 4 Paws for Ability before, a nonprofit based in Xenia, Ohio, near Dayton, that provides service dogs primarily to children with disabilities. The organization was featured in an episode of the Netflix series "Dogs."
Nunes-Quimby said friends of theirs had worked with the organization in the past, but at the time, Max was very young and a service dog wasn’t yet on their radar. Looking ahead to Max’s teenage years, though, his mothers knew he would need more support, especially in social situations or public places. They applied for and were approved for Max to get an Autism Assistance Dog.
“We felt that a support animal would be the perfect fit for him because my wife and I are not always going to be able to be with him in every single situation,” Nunes-Quimby said.
The cost for 4 Paws for Ability to raise and properly train a service dog is about $50,000, according to the organization. Max’s family must raise $17,000 of that. However, thanks to a generous donation, they now need to raise just under $10,000.
“We're not originally from Ohio, but I was like, ‘They're really, really close to us. This seems amazing. How is this all just falling into place?’” Nunes-Quimby said. “And I think part of it was just fate, and we just have been in the right place with the right information to find this organization that does exactly what we feel like Max needs.”
For Max’s parents and younger brother Titus, this would allow them to do “typical, normal family things.”
"Those would be absolutely life-changing for all of us because there's just a lot of experiences that Max really wants to have, but he can't predict how he's going to feel once he gets there and he feels overwhelmed,” Nunes-Quimby said.
While having a service dog won’t help predict how Max might react, the family is comforted by the fact that the dog could help in situations where Max is overwhelmed.
“Knowing that he would have some sense of normalcy, some sense of calm, and the ability to help regulate his feelings in those situations would be amazing for him,” Nunes-Quimby said.
Once Max’s family meets the fundraising target, Nunes-Quimby said the organization outlined a process of about two or two and a half years.
“Once the money is raised, my understanding is that then when they have a litter of puppies born, they do temperament testing to see which dogs fit which kids or anyone's needs the most, and then at that point, they'll begin training,” Nunes-Quimby said.
According to 4 Paws, “Max's dog will be his support in the areas that he struggles with and will be by his side to help make achieving day-to-day tasks possible. His dog will be taught to perform several behavior disruption techniques, including deep pressure.”
To donate by check, please make checks out to “4 Paws for Ability” and write “Max Quimby” on the check memo line. The address to which checks should be mailed is:
4 Paws for Ability
207 Dayton Ave
Xenia, OH 45385
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