Paws of War Celebrates First Anniversary of Autism Pilot Program Success

    Photo courtesy of Paws of War

    April is Autism Awareness Month and the first anniversary of the autism pilot program by Paws of War. A year ago this month, they paired a child with a service dog, and they are pleased to say that it’s been a successful program so far. When 11-year-old Cale’s dad was deployed with the U.S. Marines, it created a lot of anxiety and stress in his son, who has autism. Paws of War stepped in and provided the child with a service dog named Lexi, and it’s made a world of difference.

    “This is the first time we have placed a dog with someone who has autism, so we are excited that we can help in this situation. This is a dedicated military family to whom we are thrilled to give back,” explains Robert Misseri, co-founder of Paws of War. “Unfortunately, not every child with autism will benefit from a service animal, but in Cale’s case, it’s ideal. It’ll help him navigate anxiety and sleep issues, and Lexi will play many roles in his life as a service animal and therapy animal. It’ll give Cale the ability to give back. We know the dog is perfect for Cale, and he will work with Lexi regularly with a trainer to accomplish everything he wants.”

    Cale lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with his parents, Brandi and Chris Nolting. Chris serves in the U.S. Marines and often works demanding hours. During this, Cale becomes deeply unsettled, struggling with insomnia, anxiety, and being overwhelmed. Nothing worked to help him, so he had to resort to medication. During a doctor’s visit, Cale met a therapy dog, and his parents noticed how he gravitated to the dog and was comfortable in his presence.

    That chance encounter led to reaching out for assistance from Paws of War, which typically provides service dogs for Veterans with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, the organization has the means and wants to help a hero’s son – knowing the difference service dogs make.

    Misseri delivered Lexi, a rescued 3-year-old English cream, to the family to ensure she would be the perfect match when Cale and Lexi instantly connected. She has been by his side since. Cale is doing well, and he and Lexi have formed a strong bond. His level of distress has greatly reduced, and the hope is that he will be able to gradually reduce his medication as he becomes even more confident and can regulate his routine.

    Cale also feels much more confident now that he has Lexi by his side during stressful situations like school assemblies or fire drills. In fact, she even helps him get through difficult conversations with other kids who don’t understand his disability. The bond between these two has grown stronger every day since they met last spring. Cale has also been able to learn responsibility through his training with Lexi. He knows that he must care for her as she cares for him, and this has helped him develop an understanding of the structure and outcomes of his actions.

    “They can rely on each other. With her being a rescue, she can learn from Cale, I hope. They can grow together and have a better foundation among each other,” adds Chris Nolting. “If we could do anything to further Paws of War’s cause, it would be a win for everybody if other kids like Cale were able to receive similar support.”

    The presence of a service dog in the home brings peace of mind to military members who have to leave for deployment – knowing the dog is a comfort to their child and the family. Service dogs provide friendship, confidence, and calming ability to children who find social interaction and many daily situations over-stimulating, and the dogs offer calm reassurance. They can reach children on a level that other people often can’t. Paws of War provides ongoing training for Lexi and assistance for the family. To help support the pilot program, visit its site at: To see Cale’s story, visit YouTube.

    According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 1 in every 68 children has autism spectrum disorder. It’s a condition that affects children from all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. They report that there is no “cure” for autism spectrum disorder, but several interventions can help children learn essential skills that improve everyday life.

    Paws of War currently has three other service dogs in training. Due to the success they have seen with Cale, they will be placing the other dogs as well. Currently, they are providing service dogs to children of veterans, active military, and first responders.

    Paws of War has been operating worldwide since 2014, helping the military save the animals they rescue while deployed overseas. They have helped veterans with numerous issues, including suicide prevention, service and support dogs, companion cats and dogs, food insecurity, veterinary care, etc. Paws of War has a large loyal following of supporters and looks forward to working with new corporate sponsors to support these life-saving programs. To donate, visit its site at:


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