Local Boy With Autism Found Voice Through Service Animal


LEBANON, OH -- When a Warren County boy asked for a service animal, Dallas Pierce, 12, received a loyal companion, an accessibility tool and a pivotal turning point in finding his voice.

The 6th grader at Berry Intermediate School was diagnosed with autism at four years old. He worked with a speech therapist to increase his speech, but made limited progress.

Pierce underwent a remarkable transformation when his family began fundraising for a service animal through 4 Paws for Ability, a non-profit organization that breeds, raises, trains and places service dogs with children and veterans who have disabilities.

With the help of his family and Minuteman Press, Pierce raised $17,000 for his service dog, Sprinkle. More importantly, Pierce’s speech improved so much during his fundraising efforts, that his speech therapist exclaimed, “[I’ve] never seen anything like this!”

Finding a voice

Pierce’s mom, Savanna Kim, said Sprinkle also found her voice with Pierce’s help. While in training, Sprinkle did not bark to alert. That quirk made her perfect as an autism support animal (or, as Kim calls her, “a Service Princess.”)

However, when Sprinkle and Pierce were training together, Pierce hung upside down on the monkey bars, causing Sprinkle to alert for the first time. Today, Sprinkle is ready to bark whenever she senses danger.

“Both of them found their voice through each other,” Kim said.

The “Service Princess” is a part of the family

Sprinkle attends school with Pierce and helps with his anxiety and confidence. She is always by his side to provide comfort, companionship and a listening ear. In return, she only asks for belly rubs.

Two years after receiving Sprinkle, Pierce no longer goes to speech therapy. He is also catching up in school and is becoming more independent.

“Before he had a service dog and he was just non-verbal little Dallas, there’s no way he could have stayed home alone," Kim said. "I would have been worried sick. But since he got his dog, he talks to everybody. He’ll message us or call us and talk to us when he sees us. And it also makes me feel safe knowing that when he’s staying home alone, he’s not really home alone.”

Sprinkle also cares for Pierce’s siblings, comforting them after a horror movie or providing a warm belly to lay on.

Although they didn’t know it at first, Sprinkle was the missing piece needed to complete Pierce’s family.

For more information, contact Megan Becker at megan.becker@warrencountydd.org or (859) 653-7445.

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