Boy makes wish for ‘Angel’
By Alex Pickett, Independent Newspapers
Seth Preito had a wish. A big furry wish. And that wish recently came true. The Make-A-Wish Foundation presented the 4-year-old Chandler boy, born with a heart defect and rare chromosome disorder, last month with an assistance dog. The golden retriever, Angel, will not only be a furry companion for the boy, but help him stand and balance. Once he gets older, the dog will help guide him around.
At a recent party inside the home of Seth’s parents, Lisa and Mark Preito, the dog plopped down beside Seth and let the boy put his feet on its back. “He likes to pet her with his feet,” said Mrs. Preito.
Seth had his third heart surgery last October. At this point, Seth cannot speak or walk, and his mental and physical development is hampered by his condition. However, Mrs. Preito said her son’s health has been “fantastic” since the last surgery and he is growing slowly. She attributes the growth to Angel helping him stand and building the muscles in his legs.
The idea to bring a dog into Seth’s life originated at Seth’s school — the Blind Children’s Cooperative Preschool for the Visually Impaired. Once a week, the Chandler school would bring in dogs for animal therapy and Seth enjoyed them immensely. Mrs. Preito, at a friend’s suggestion, contacted Make-A-Wish Foundation of Arizona one year ago to see if they could help.
“We were very excited,” said Laura Toussaint-Newkirk, the communications director for Arizona’s Make-A-Wish Foundation. “It is a very unique wish. A majority of our wishes tend to be Disneyland or shopping sprees.”
Mrs. Toussaint-Newkirk contacted Power Paws Assistance Dogs to find Seth a suitable dog and have it trained. Make-A-Wish Foundation took care of all expenses. Then, he was given to the Preito family and Angel hasn’t left Seth since. “From the time they get up in the morning until the time they go to bed, she is with him,” said Mr. Preito.
Some of the best moments, he said, are after Seth eats. Angel will come up and lick his face. Mr. Preito said at first they weren’t sure if they should let Angel do that, but then thought it was a good way to build a relationship between the two. Basically, he said, they were sharing — Angel lets Seth lie on top of her and Seth lets Angel lick his face.
Assistance dogs do more than help people gain independence
By Brandy Aguilar / 3TV health producer
Not having the use of your arms and legs or being hearing impaired can be very difficult. That’s why gaining independence is important for people faced with disabilities. One way to get back their freedom is with the use of a dog.
Elizabeth Parkinson spends her time as a volunteer puppy raiser for a group known as Power Paws Assistance Dogs, a nonprofit organization here in the Valley. The group’s mission is to provide help to kids and adults with different types of disabilities. “For those people who have never had children or dogs before, it’s a great place to start because you have a support group instantaneously,” Parkinson said.
Power Paws uses mostly Golden and Labrador retrievers. Parkinson has already trained nine dogs. Oakley is her 10th. Puppy raisers start their work when the dogs are only about 7 to 8 weeks old. Their goal is to teach them 90 commands during a two-year span. Some of those are taught before they’re even handed over from volunteer coordinator Kira Anderson.
Her dog Christie is one of the breeders for Power Paws. “We teach them a few basic commands like ‘kiss’ and ‘snuggle’ and ‘here,'” Anderson said. “We tap them and then try to get them to come towards us.”