Like a lot of young boys, 9-year-old Shane Walz would like a dog.A trained service dog would fetch items for Shane, who has a rare form of congenital muscular dystrophy.Shane uses a wheelchair and is quickly losing strength in his arms. A service dog could alert or wake up the boy's father within minutes if necessary. A dog could open doors for Shane.A dog would also be a loyal companion to the boy."These dogs are friends," Shane's great-grandmother Ruth Michels said. "His world is closing in. He talks a lot about (getting) his service dog."Friends of the family have organized a fundraiser at the Hot Tomato Cafe and Pizzeria in Fruita to raise money for a service dog for Shane.The family has applied to Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Rosa, Calif., which provides highly-trained assistance dogs for children and adults with disabilities, free of charge. The training takes months to complete, and is funded by donations from individuals, businesses, civic groups and clubs and grants.The cost to the family stems from travel costs associated with acquiring the dog.Once Shane is accepted onto the waiting list, the waiting period is anywhere from six months to two-and-half years. Shane, his father, Ron Walz, and Shane's grandmother, Danna Michels, would travel to the training site and stay for a minimum of two weeks to determine whether the dog and child bond well together. A return trip is also required. The organization estimates total expenses for a family average about $10,000. "We hope it will open a door for Shane to be more independent," his father said. "He'll get to an age where that will be more important."Shane appeared healthy at birth, but learned to walk later than normal, and would easily fall, said Walz, 31, who has had sole custody of his son since he was 2. At age 4, when he got his first bike, it was too difficult to push down the pedals, Walz said.After a brief hospitalization a couple of years ago, Shane never walked again.Shane likes playing video games - an area where he is on the same level playing field of his peers, Walz said. And he loves animals."We have ferrets," Walz said. "They're light and easy and can crawl over him."The fundraiser event at Hot Tomato is a costume party, with giveaways every half-hour of donated items such as Keen-brand shoes and yoga gear. A portion of beer and pizza sales will go to help Shane's family with expenses in acquiring a dog.At Rye Gallery, 201 E. Aspen, just south of the Hot Tomato, a silent art auction will be underway during the fundraising event. A number of artworks, including pottery, a stain-glassed window and works by Grand Junction artist and Shane's grandfather, Charles Hardy, have been donated.Money donations are also being accepted at Wells Fargo Bank via the Shane Michael Walz Benefit fund.
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