by Jason Lamb
2:25 PM AKST, November 16, 2010
Logan Erickson, an autistic boy in an Unalakleet family, is about to receive a priceless gift all the way from Ohio -- and Channel 2's Jason Lamb and photojournalist Carolyn Hall were there to capture it all.
For a family from rural Alaska, an Ohio town can prove as unfamiliar as it is beautiful, and a different place can be a challenge to overcome -- but the Erickson family is used to challenges. This trip with their 10-year-old son, Logan, is a first in more ways than one.
“One of us usually doesn't travel because of Logan, and the difficulties he has,” said Logan’s mother, Donna Erickson.
Service dogs like Juke, trained at Ohio's 4 Paws for Ability, learn how to track down kids like Logan who can run away: a lifesaving necessity in Unalakleet, where temperatures can drop past 40 below zero.
“Here they're receiving this dog, sometimes it’s exactly how they pictured it, sometimes it's completely different,” said dog trainer Jessa Brown.
For an autistic child, the first moment with a four-legged new best friend can be a truly joyus experience. We'd like to tell you it was that way for Logan, but it wasn’t; his father, Jeff Erickson, tried to keep him from running away screaming.
“There's just so many people in there -- so many people and so much commotion, it kind of overwhelms his senses,” Jeff Erickson said.
All the attention surrounding a family from Unalakleet coming all the way to Ohio didn't help either.
“I see a gaggle of reporters,” Erickson said. “There he is? Ready to say hi to him?”
By the end of the first day of training, it looked like all the hope in the world wouldn't make Logan and Juke click.
“Logan, look, I'm feeding your dog. Can you help me, can you help me please?” Jeff Erickson said.
But one subtle gesture offered some hope.
“Did you pet Juke for the first time? Wow -- good job, Logan! Good job, Logan!” Donna Erickson said.
Thursday on the News Hour, we'll continue following Logan as Juke learns the most critical part of his training: being able to track down Logan when the temperature gets really cold.
Contact Jason Lamb at email@example.com
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