RYE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A service dog that has changed the life of a young boy with autism has gone missing.
Echo, a 5-year-old Labrador Retriever, left the Fontana family’s Rye home on Dearborn Avenue through an open door last Wednesday night and hasn’t been seen since.
For 5-year-old Mark Fontana, Echo — a specially trained autism service dog — is truly his best friend, his guide, his compass and his protector.
“She’s a safety feature ’cause she stops him from running away,” the boy’s father, Paul Fontana, told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams. “Autistic children have the tendency to bolt and run off into traffic or into water. Mark certainly does that. Echo’s been a big help, really helping him just stay. He’s literally tethered to her, so when he runs away, she braces and he can’t bolt.”
Fontana said Echo is always by his son’s side.
“She walks to school with him. We take her out when we go shopping or to the mall or to the beach or pool or anywhere,” Fontana said. “The idea is that she’s always with him.”
One neighbor reported seeing two women near a small red car holding the collar of a black dog around the time Echo went missing.
Neighbors organized search parties and fanned out along Oakland Beach and other spots near Rye Playland, but the search turned up nothing.
Echo weighs about 50 pounds and might still be wearing a red collar with tags from Guiding Eyes For The Blind.
The Fontana family is offering a reward.
Anyone with information is asked to call Rye police at 914-967-1234.
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