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An autistic boy, and a plea for a pup

Tracey McCarthy 28 Posen is trying raise money order get service dog help her sConnor McCullough 8 cope with his

Tracey McCarthy, 28, of Posen, is trying to raise money in order to get a service dog to help her son, Connor McCullough, 8, cope with his autism. | Nick Swedberg~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 15, 2014 6:43AM



Eight-year-old Connor McCullough can’t switch it off.

For 20 minutes straight one Tuesday afternoon, he sprinted back and forth across the living room and kitchen floors inside his family’s Posen home. His mother, 28-year-old Tracy McCarthy, said he is like that all of the time.

Connor’s hyperactivity is linked to his autism, which he was diagnosed with six years ago, McCarthy said. She’s hoping that a service dog through Very Important Pooches Service Dog Foundation, based in Oswego, will help with managing Connor’s autism as he gets older.

They’re using gogetfunding.com, a personal finance website for projects or causes, to raise money to cover the up-to-$4,500 price tag for one of the dogs.

McCarthy’s motivation to get a service dog comes out of a fear that all parents of young children have.

“The main reason I want a service dog is that, one day, I’m worried he’ll get away from me,” McCarthy said.

The dog would serve as an extra set of eyes, and service dogs also are good for helping deal with anxiety, she said.

Connor was diagnosed when he was just 2 years old. The news was devastating to the family. At the time, all McCarthy could hear from the doctors was that her child was never going to speak, that he won’t have a life like other children.

But, over the years, McCarthy started to understand more about autism and began to see more responsiveness from her son. He started attending school, and goes to Spaulding School in Midlothian. McCarthy said he usually responds to being told what to do. It’s not perfect, but they make it work.

“We learn to adapt to his world,” McCarthy said. “He gets frustrated a lot and has a lot of meltdowns. He can’t always tell me what he wants.”

McCarthy and Connor’s father divorced in 2009. They share custody of Connor. She now lives with Connor, her 2-year-old son Jacob and her boyfriend Mando Frausto in Posen. They are expecting a little girl this month.

Connor is the grandson of Dale McCullough, a former Chicago Sun-Times employee who now is retired.

The hope is that Connor will respond well to the service dog. Animals are among the few things that can hold his attention.

The foundation has a dog, a poodle named Zoro, that could end up with Connor, if they are able to secure the money.

Even with a dog, Connor requires much of McCarthy’s attention. She is a stay-at-home mom but plans to attend school again after she gives birth.

“Right now, this is my life,” McCarthy said. “And he needs me a lot.”

Visit gogetfunding.com/project/autism-service-dog for more information about Connor and to donate.



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