When he was in the 5th grade, Aiden Tapiz, a handsome young man from California, was devastated when he had to miss a school trip to the California State Capitol.
Aiden has autism, a developmental disorder that is characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior. People talk about the “autism spectrum” which basically means that problems related to autism can range from mild to severe. The problem that resulted in tremendous disappointment and heartache and caused Aiden to miss his 5th grade field trip was an inability to tolerate being in a crowd.
But all of that began to change in December 2012 when “Lego” entered the picture. Lego is Aiden’s Autism Service Dog. She was adopted from the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter and over the next 18 months, both Lego and Aiden were in training with Operation Freedom Paws. Operation Freedom Paws trains clients to train their own service dogs. They provide dogs and training to U.S. military veterans, individuals who have PTSD, and people with other disabilities such as autism.
By November 2013, Lego had passed the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen test as well as a service dog team certification test (administered by a service dog agency). Within a matter of months, Lego became the first service dog brought into Aiden’s school district.
Finally, thanks to Lego, this year, Aiden got to take that long-awaited field trip to Sacramento to the California Capitol. Aiden, Lego and Aiden’s dad, Tony, were given a VIP tour of the Capitol. Aiden was extremely proud when he was told that he and Lego were the first service dog team to sit on the floor of the California Assembly, Senate and Governor’s office.
Aiden isn’t resting on all of this recent attention. He has been inspired by his dog training success and he is working to raise public awareness about autism, service dogs, and responsible dog ownership.
Aiden and Lego’s latest accomplishment? Lego, who showed her extraordinarily good city dog manners in the halls, elevators, and meeting rooms of the California Legislature, has earned the AKC’s newest CGC title- AKC Urban CGC. Paws Up to Aiden and “Lego, CGCU”- they’re staying busy and making a remarkable difference.