Service dog wish: 5-year-old Tallahassee boy struggling with health issues wants companion

A study from the University of Arizona shows that only 0.9% of individuals with disabilities are paired with a service dog.
Published: Oct. 5, 2020 at 12:06 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - One 5-year-old, Korbin Ashling, has a big wish. Throughout his childhood, he has suffered through various illnesses, and now his mother wants to provide for him. And it is not in the way you might think.

The motherly love Kelly Ashling gives to her son is not just in the form of gifts and hugs, but rather, the promise and hope of a life long friend: a service dog.

“My son Korbin is just the happiest, most hardworking person you will ever meet," shares Ashling.

The young boy was born healthy, but as he got older, the charismatic child had a regression. Korbin was diagnosed with autism, then epilepsy, and earlier this year received open heart surgery. In his recovery, he also found out he had an immune and mitochondrial dysfunction.

All of that has not stopped him, but Kelly shares she still wanted a companion with her son.

“I just really want him to expand his ability to have social connection and emotional connection with others, and I think the animal is going to do that very well,” she said.

Korbin is already on the waitlist for a program with New Horizons service dogs. But before being paired with a pup, one must sign-up.

Kelly says it is a laborious process. Out of 64 different organizations she researched, she was able to narrow it down to eight before selecting New Horizons.

“Some of them have certain rules based on everything you can imagine, like how old are you, do you have a fenced yard, how far away are you from the city... What tax bracket you are in. You would not believe some of the strange requirements,” she says.

A study from the University of Arizona shows that only 0.9% of individuals with disabilities are paired with a service dog. For Korbin, like so many other children with special needs, a furry friend could not only bridge a gap in social-emotional connection, but also be their voice, eyes and ears.

“A lot of the service animals are trained to be tethered to the child," says Kelly. "To understand their scent, to be able to find them if they are lost or away.”

Knowing that a service dog would always protect Korbin gives Kelly peace of mind.

“He can get very distracted easily," says Kelly. "He can just run off, and in most cases other children will tell you where they are. He won’t do that, he can’t.”

She also says the dog would be there not just for his safety, but also for his well being.

“(A dog) That helps him in every setting from school, to social interaction, to crowded places, navigating large environments that are sensory overload. It is like were are going to have another member of the family that is going to help us out,” she says.

While Korbin waits and fundraises for his potential pup, Kelly knows that her son and others, have a chance at a friend for life.

“I want him to feel like this dog is a part of his team,” she says.

Right now, there are are more than 100 people in front of Korbin on a waiting list for a service dog. Kelly asks that for anyone interested in donating to help them afford the payments for a dog, they can visit this link.

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