Golden Retriever pups aid autistic kids

Puppies give aid to autistic children
By Nate Hansen, Larson Newspapers

The gate to Fran Elliott’s Sedona acreage opens and an incoming vehicle is greeted by a half-dozen blurs of yellow incited by wagging tails and shaking hindquarters — excited and panting golden retrievers approach the car from all sides.

Elliott, a 20-year resident of Sedona, is the director of the Hairy Angel Foundation. The purpose for her organization is to provide service dogs for autistic children.

Elliott appears on the circular driveway. With a kind command followed by praise, she calls the dogs to return and heel. “Welcome,” Elliott says, smiling.

Peabody, a female puppy, leans into a stranger’s leg, yearning for attention. Pet her, Elliott encourages. These service dogs thrive on love, she says.

Elliott’s foundation incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Sedona 12 years ago. It began after she discovered the comforting benefits an autistic child received from one of her furry friends.

She says she can’t explain the connection, but for some reason the golden retrievers and children find a common bond. “They provide unconditional love, exercise, a sense of responsibility, protection and are used by the children’s therapists in animal assistive therapy,” Elliott adds.

There’s more . . .


7 thoughts on “Golden Retriever pups aid autistic kids

  1. I know this is sort of an old article, but… this lady does a real disservice to autistic folks with REAL SDs. Her dogs are just emotional support dogs and shouldn’t have public access rights, but she tells people to take them in public, even though they’re not task trained.

  2. I’m afraid the comment from “changer” shows real ignorance. The Hairy Angel Foundation breeds and trains Service Dogs for autistic children, who are seriously disabled. The dogs are task-trained for various specific services, depending upon the specific needs of the children. Their rights to public access is a crucial part of our program, and these rights are protected by our legal system. They have successfully provided service to disabled children since 1986, at no cost to the children’s families, and we are extraordinarily proud of these dogs.

  3. Last week our wonderful Golden Retriever, Buddy, passed away from a brain tumor. We have four children who have morned his loss, but none as great as our son, Sean. Sean is 10 years old and has Autism, high functioning. He has cried so many tears it breaks my heart. He told me it would be too painful for him to be with us for Buddy’s “funeral”.

    At some point we would like to get him another Golden and have heard of Goldens being specifically trained for autistic children. How can I “sign” Sean up for a specially trained Golden?

    Thank you for your time and the service you provide.


  4. Bev, my heart goes out to you and your family. Losing a family member is so very hard but especially so for a youngster, and then more affected by one with a disability. I do not have any connections to agencies supplying service dogs for the autistic. I doubt your son requires a service dog if Buddy was a ‘family’ Golden and your son was able to form such a wonderful relationship with him. Possibly, your exploring Golden rescues in your area may help you find a new member to adopt.

  5. Dear Bev,

    Our dogs are specifically trained to be helpful to autistic children. They provide exercise, love, responsibility and social interaction for the children, and qualify as Service Dogs.

    Please feel free to contact The Hairy Angel Foundation at and we will be glad to put your family on the list for our next trained litter.

    We are all-volunteer and do not charge for the dogs, however travel expenses are yours.


    Fran Elliott

  6. I have a 12 year old severely autistic son that I would like to match him with a service dog. We have our second golden retriever, Sierra, who is 8 years old and has bone cancer. Our family is heart broken. Please connect me with the appropriate contact person.
    Thank you, Gail Finkenberg

  7. Gail, I am so sorry about your Sierra. And, I wish I could help find a service dog for you but I only provide the names of applicable organizations. You need to do the research and make the contacts.

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