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Thunder helps autistic Lincoln 14-year-old

now ailing dog needs community?s help
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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The Moulton family calls their service dog Thunder the ?autism ambassador? but now he is the one who needs their help. That?s because Thunder, a 5-year-old English retriever, was recently diagnosed with lymphoma. The family needs to raise $5,000 to $7,000 to pay for chemotherapy and radiation that Linda Moulton said could provide Thunder a full life instead of one to two months without treatment. Thunder has been with the family since puppyhood, according to Moulton. She said the family got the dog to assist her son Evan, 14, who has autism. Moulton said her Evan is considered ?high-functioning,? something Thunder has helped her son achieve. Evan?s autism has been present since birth, she said. ?When we got Thunder, his ?jobs? were, and still are, to push against Evan to provide deep muscle pressure and grounding, to play with him and get him to interact and to go out in public with Evan and help with social interactions and grounding,? Moulton said. ?People would make comments about Thunder or ask to pet him and Evan would answer questions and talk to people, which is something he didn?t normally do.? Before Moulton and her husband, Ray Reynolds, brought Thunder into their family, both said they were ?lucky if we got to eat, sleep and take a shower? most days. Including Evan, the Moultons have a combined five children. ?What Evan used to be like until we had the dog is night and day,? Reynolds said. ?I?d watch them and he?d be giggling, hysterically laughing, and they?d run through the house. Before Thunder, we couldn?t be more than three feet away from Evan and we had to constantly watch him.? That?s because Reynolds described Evan as a ?sensory seeker? who ?needed pressure? and would look for ways to provide that pressure. Those sensory issues meant Evan ?couldn?t stand the feeling of clothes or the textures of many foods, couldn?t stand normal noises? such as the vacuum, toilet or people talking, and ?needed lots of deep muscle pressure and would crash into things? to get it, Moulton said. ?Thunder joined this part of therapy from the beginning by pushing against Evan and wrestling with him,? Moulton said. Thunder is referred to as the ?autism ambassador? because of the attention he gets when out in public that leads to education about autism, according to Moulton. Now the family is asking the community to provide the money needed to save Thunder?s life. ?A couple of weeks ago, Thunder didn?t feel well. He was laying around and felt feverish,? Moulton said. ?About five weeks ago, his face and ears were swollen. Everyone said he had gotten stung in the backyard by a bee.? Moulton said Thunder?s glands felt swollen, and while his ?fat ears? eventually went down, Moulton said his glands didn?t go back to normal. He also developed a cough. ?A week ago, he didn?t feel so good so we took him in,? Moulton said July 5. ?The vet mentioned lymphoma, and we had $400 worth of tests done.? If Thunder doesn?t receive treatment, his life expectancy is one to two months, Moulton said. Thunder had his first chemo treatment on July 6 and chemo alone would give Thunder a 90 percent chance of remission with an estimated year of remission, Moulton said. Moulton said there is an experimental radiation treatment at the University of California at Davis that ?could cure him.? ?The original intent for raising money was to give Thunder a year so that Evan could have an idea of not having Thunder, to make the transition,? Moulton said. ?Kids with autism don?t transition well and do change well.? If the family raises enough money for the radiation treatment and chemo combined, it could mean Thunder might live a longer life, Moulton said. ?He?s not just any dog,? Reynolds said. ?We love Evan so much this is what we decided to do.? Evan described Thunder as ?the best dog ever.? ?He was already a good dog, even if we didn?t train him. The last two weeks, we have totally spoiled him and he?s still a good dog,? Evan said. Evan said one of his favorite games to play with Thunder entails throwing the dog?s ball into the other room and ?I hide in the kitchen.? ?He?ll run in the kitchen looking for me and I jump out at him,? Evan said. Moulton said Thunder ?gets a toy first thing in the morning and looks for Evan to play.? Evan said he wants to get better, and described finding out that Thunder had lymphoma. ?It?s like literally taking a piece out of me without anesthetic,? Evan said.