As featured in the 4 Paws for Ability 2017 Annual Report
Bryson Branam’s service dog, Curtiss, joined his family in May of 2017. This gentle dog has not only been a constant source of comfort and joy to his companion with severe autism, he has saved his life on more than one occasion. Bryson’s mom, Amy, remembers the first time this lifesaving dog came to everyone’s rescue. On a hot summer day while his family was working in the yard, Bryson slipped away. Terrified, his parents did not know where to begin searching and thoughts were already flashing to nearby bodies of water, a common draw and danger for children who elope. Dad, Patrick, quickly attached the leash to Curtiss and commanded, ‘Curtiss, go find your boy.’ “Curtiss knew exactly where to go. His nose went to the ground. He made one short sweep back and forth to figure out which way his boy went and followed the strongest scent. Straight to the
passenger side car door,” according to Amy. Bryson was already flushed with the heat. Children with autism can experience temperature differently and Bryson would not have thought to get out of the car on his own. Thanks to Curtiss, their son was found in time to save his life.
Curtiss endlessly enhances Bryson’s life. “Bryson and Curtiss are never separated. They go to school together, hang out together, play together, snuggle, and sleep together,” according to Amy. “They are a wonderful team, and we have seen a dramatic change in Bryson’s behavior
and his level of independence. His meltdowns, which can take the form of head banging or running into walls, have dramatically decreased.” When they do happen, Curtiss is trained in behavior disruption and is able to either “lap” (put his head in Bryson’s lap) or nuzzle Bryson to divert his attention and help Bryson return to a steady state.
Amy also credits Curtiss’s influence with a marked improvement in Bryson’s verbal skills. After being silent for much of his life, Bryson is routinely using one and two-word sentences and sometimes three word utterances that make his needs known. “Every word is a celebration,” according to Amy. The Branams face hurtles every day, but partnered with Curtiss, they look toward Bryson’s future with steady confidence. They feel that there is a new sense of peace in their lives, and they are grateful every day for the beautiful dog that guards and loves their sweet son.