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Cross-Country ’Doggie Relay’ Keeps Autistic Child United with Pets


PITTSBURGH -- The “dog days” of summer took on new meaning for a McDonald, Pa., family this week when they found out that they couldn’t transport their two laborador retrievers on their move to Phoenix, Ariz. due to the intense heatwave gripping most of the country. The family, who has a child with autism, were forced to find new homes for their pets, that is, until they turned to AutismLink, a nationwide autism support organization.

“The family contacted us looking for someone to take their pets.” said Cindy Waeltermann, AutismLink Director, “They had no means of transporting them because the father had left for his new job with the only family car.” That’s when AutismLink families jumped into action. Jenny Webster of DuBois, Pa., a mother of an autistic child herself, refused to let the family go without the pets.

“This is a story about an autistic boy who is about to lose most everything familiar to him. He’s moving to a new state, new home, new school and will be meeting all new people.” Webster said, “Change in routine is very disruptive for someone with autism. It truly is a matter of need not want, as far as I am concerned.”

Webster turned to the autism community for help and has organized a “doggie relay” from Pittsburgh, Pa., to Phoenix, Ariz. to reunite the family with their pets. “I sent out a plea to the autism community, people who are tapped financially and physically, and still I got offers of money and man power to make this relay possible. It’s truly incredible!” Webster said.

Lenore Wossidlo of Pittsburgh, Pa., a member of AutismLink and mother of an autistic child, helped to raise funds for the event. “As an animal lover and a parent of two children, I know the value of the relationship between this special child and his dogs,” Wossidlo said, “I got involved because he cannot be without them.” Wossidlo is taking the Pittsburgh to Sharon, Pa., leg of the relay, where she’ll hand the dogs over to Webster.

“Volunteers are still needed,” said Waeltermann, “we need someone to take the dogs from Indiana to Missouri, and from Missouri to Oklahoma.” If no volunteers are found, Jenny Webster will complete the drive from Sharon, Pa., to Oklahoma. The last leg of the journey from Oklahoma to Phoenix is being conducted by Jenn Engle of Albuquerque, N.M.

The drive will take place this Friday, July 29, and AutismLink is hoping to find more volunteers and more financial resources to make this trip a reality. To volunteer as a driver, contact or To donate funds for the journey, visit


About AutismLink:

AutismLink is a nonprofit organization established in 1999 that provides web-based support and information on autism spectrum disorders at


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