UPDATE: TJ and his service dog, Sunny!

Seven-year-old TJ has received his service dog and they are quickly becoming the best of pals!

Friends Helping Friends, Inc. helped to raise funds for TJ to receive his trained service dog during the 2015 FHF, Inc. Block Party. The dog, Sunny, came from Ultimate Canines. Friends of FHF, Inc. may remember TJ, Sunny and The Durbin family during their appearance at the 2015 FHF, Inc. Block Party in Carmel, IN. last year.

CAPTION: TJ, Sunny the service dog, and Blair Clark, founder of Friends Helping Friends, Inc. at the 2015 FHF, Inc. Block Party in Carmel, IN. PHOTOGRAPH BY: Amber Collins

TJ's Dad, Tim Durbin, is happy to report that the TJ and his dog, Sunny, have really bonded.

"Sunny is a fun-loving, very energetic dog who's always excited to see any member of our family, jumping up on his hind legs, and eager to play fetch with any object at a moment's notice," said Tim. "He accompanies TJ to his ABA therapy center and is generally kept in his kennel while TJ works on his therapy. But if TJ is taken to another room without Sunny he becomes sad until they are reunited, and TJ even likes to climb in the kennel with Sunny."

CAPTION: TJ and Sunny the service dog at The Durbin's home. Photo submitted by Tim Durbin

Tim reported to Friends Helping Friends, Inc. that TJ and Sunny enjoy going on walks together with Tim and TJ's mother, Jerri Ann. During these walks, TJ wears a harness tethered to Sunny, so that TJ can walk independently without his parents, and his parents can walk alongside them without fear of TJ running off.

"With Sunny present, we tested out his training at a park that contained a lake we were always afraid to take TJ to before, fearing he would run off," said Tim. "We watched both of them carefully in a spot away from the lake and when TJ started to wander off, a command launched Sunny after him racing until he had gotten in front of him and stopped him. How wonderful this was and how much peace of mind it gave us!"

CAPTION: TJ harnessed to Sunny the service dog as they walk around together. Photo submitted by Tim Durbin

Tim said TJ is enjoying his new freedom and his new pet pal. There are sunny days ahead, indeed, for The Durbin Family. We want to send a special thank you to the wonderful Durbin Family for sending us this update and photographs, and for letting us be a part of their story and them a part of ours.

CAPTION: TJ and Sunny the service dog walking around together. Photo submitted by Tim Durbin

Sunny serves an important purpose for TJ by not only protecting, teaching and calming him, but also helping TJ to open up to new experiences.

"TJ who would never touch animals on his own before, but often reaches out to pet Sunny and has even started petting our cats," said Tim. "Which he never did before, just one way he is opening up thanks to Sunny's influence."

And Sunny and the cats? "Sunny will always try to go up and sniff them, and they will sometimes hiss to get him to move back, and sometimes he will chase after them," said Tim. "They do like to see what he's doing however, and will get up on high surfaces to keep an eye on him."

The Durbin's will be in attendence with TJ and a special appearance by Sunny the service dog during the 2016 FHF, Inc. Spring Gala held on May 20th, 2016 at the Ritz Charles in Carmel, IN. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit friendshelpingfriendsinc.org/gala.

#TJ #Sunny #ServiceDog #Carmel #Indiana #UltimateCanine #FHFIncBlockParty #BlairClark #Friends #friendshelpingfriends #autism #autismawareness

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