Curtis and Gabi Bryan sat in their backyard one afternoon with their three kids and a charming Golden Retriever named Becker.

Though Becker was relaxing in the grass with the family, enjoying belly rubs and playing fetch, he was actually on duty — as an autism service dog.

The Bryan’s oldest son, Lucas, 6, has autism and also suffers from occasional seizures.

Just a few weeks ago, Lucas had run out of the Bryan’s home in Ahwatukee making a beeline for 48th Street’s busy traffic.

“He doesn’t understand danger,” Curtis said.

After a second incident of Lucas running out toward moving cars, the Bryans decided to look into getting a service dog after nearly a year of consideration.

But at the $22,000 price tag, the dream of being able to give Lucas more freedom when out in public, a better sleep schedule, and other proven health benefits slowly came to a stop.

“Resources are scarce,” said Gabi, “we can’t do it on our own.”

Through Arizona Goldens, a service dog and animal-assisted therapy company in Mesa, the Bryans have been able to start a fundraising effort and have also met with various service dogs for consultations.

That’s where Becker comes in.

The 4-year-old service dog, that started training as a young pup, was able to keep Lucas calm and focused during his visit.

“We’ve been able to get Lucas to sit at a desk for 15 minutes when he usually only lasted one minute,” said Brian Daugherty, of Arizona Goldens.

Autism service dogs have been known to increase a child’s communication skills, reduce stimming behaviors and alert to safety issues.

“(Lucas) has a very hard time expressing his needs, a dog could sense some of those needs and alert us,” Curtis said.

As she watched Lucas play with toy cars and trucks next to his baby sister, Isabel, and younger brother, Joshua, Gabi mentioned that she wants Lucas to eventually become an independent adult. And she’s convinced a service dog will be a way to get him there.

“Our main priority is to keep him safe,” Gabi added. “And we need the help.”

For more information about Lucas’ story or to donate to his cause, visit

Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or

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