How a dog is changing the world for a young boy with autism

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Three-year-old Cruz is a chocolate lab that has changed the world for 7-year-old Peter Lapollo and his family.

"When you have a child with autism, all these unexpected things come about," said Peter's mother, Lorraine Lapollo.

"A good day turns bad really fast," said Peter's stepdad, Jay Frango.

Peter was diagnosed with autism when he was four years old. For years, his family had trouble going on trips, or even leaving the house, because Peter would run away. He had trouble socializing with other children, and even being in public.

Last September, Peter was introduced to Cruz, an autism service dog made possible by Blue Path. Cruz goes with Peter everywhere he goes - walks, the playground, and even vacations.

Cruz has even allowed Peter to socialize better with other children.

Autism affects more than 3.5 million children in the country. Cruz is one of 20 service dogs that Blue Path has placed in homes in the New York area. Each dog costs about $40,000 to train, from the time they are puppies - but are free of cost to the family giving them a new leash on life.

"Our dogs not only become amazing companions but keep them safe and allow them to rejoin the community," said Michelle Brier.

Cruz isn't just therapy for Peter, he is a part of the family

Blue Path is a nonprofit organization. Friday, on World Autism Day, and for the next week, any donation made to enable a family to get a dog like Cruz will be matched by an anonymous donor of up to $5,000.

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