Service Dog Keeps Boy with Autism Safe by Tracking Him When He Tries to Run Off

A few years ago, life was very different for the Woodruff family. They were working on fundraising $17,000 for a service dog for their young son, Jordan, who is on the autism spectrum and likes to try to run off frequently. The family was anxiously trying to keep their son safe and constantly worried about his wellbeing.

Fast-forward to the present, and the family’s community in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, has successfully fundraised the cost of a service dog from 4 Paws for Ability. Now Vargas helps the family keep Jordan safe and their own minds at ease.

Photo: ABC 27 News

“He’s an eloper,” says Jacqueline Woodruff, Jordan’s mom. “He will actually take off and run, and he (Vargas) is actually trained to find him. He can find him based on his cells, the dry cells that fall to the ground. He can actually track him.”

Photo: ABC 27 News

Vargas also helps keep Jordan from eloping in the first place. Jordan and Vargas are often attached to each other via a special harness when they go out so that when Jordan tries to elope, Vargas can simply sit down and keep him from leaving. Jordan can explore the world more freely, and his parents don’t have to have a hand on him at all times.

Photo: Facebook/Priscilla Liguori and ABC 27 News

“He does great work for Jordan,” says Jeffrey, Jordan’s brother.

Jordan is also the happiest he’s ever been. He started talking more within days of getting the dog. He truly enjoys his time with his new best friend, who makes the world a more welcoming and safer place. Vargas also calms him and helps him focus on daily tasks.

“He fell in love with the dog, and the dog fell in love with him,” says Jacqueline. “It was amazing.”

Photo: ABC 27 News

Since spring, when Vargas entered the family’s life, they have gone out almost every week to a restaurant to spend some time together. That’s something that almost never happened without Vargas.

Photo: Facebook/Priscilla Liguori

“Going out to eat was a thing that did not happen,” says Aaron Woodruff, Jordan’s dad. “Now we go pretty much every Sunday after church.”

Photo: ABC 27 News

Vargas helps Jordan safely board the bus, and he’s a great conversation starter for Jordan at school. The 8-year-old no longer has trouble making friends and holding conversations, and other students are happy to introduce themselves.

“He’s not invisible anymore,” says Aaron.

Learn more about Jordan and Vargas’s touching story in the video below.

Elizabeth Nelson

Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?

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