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A boy and his dog enjoy the last weeks of summer break

Matteo Trovato, 9, with is mom, Michelle, and his new working dog, Ragetti, from  4 Paws for Ability in Ohio, an organization that provides service dogs for children. - DIANE STRANDBERG/THE TRI-CITY NEWS
Matteo Trovato, 9, with is mom, Michelle, and his new working dog, Ragetti, from 4 Paws for Ability in Ohio, an organization that provides service dogs for children.
— image credit: DIANE STRANDBERG/THE TRI-CITY NEWS

Nine-year-old Matteo Trovato will be heading back to school in September with a new friend in tow.

The Moody elementary school student will have Ragetti, a Golden Doodle, trained by 4 Paws for Ability at his side.

When Trovato, who is legally blind and has mobility issues, needs someone to lean on, Ragetti will provide support, and when the little boy needs a calming presence, Ragetti, named after a character in Pirates of the Caribbean, will stand or sit quietly near him.

But the large, teddy-bear like dog with the curly hair and serious demeanor won't just be a charming companion — every boy's dream when the school bell beckons — Ragetti is also a lifeline to keep Trovato safe.

4 Paws four Ability Dog Ragetti

Eddie Trovato, the boy's father said Ragetti has been trained to track Matteo if he goes missing. "Sometime he wanders off," the elder Trovato explained, noting he once lost the boy at the Boat Show and had BC Place Stadium on high alert. Ragetti will ensure the Matteo doesn't go missing — the boy is so attached to him he won't let the dog out of his sight — and has his scent so finding Matteo is just a matter of sticking with the scent until he's located.

Ragetti, who wears a red service dog vest to indicate he is a working dog, is also trained to alert an adult if Matteo suffers from one of his seizures, which are infrequent, but still life-threatening. He'll paw a nearby adult caregiver and lick and sniff the boy intently to indicate there's a problem.

Now, finally, after years of worry, months of fundraising, and an initial settling in period, the Trovatos are now able to take deep breath. "It's a big relief to have the dog," admitted the elder Trovato.

COMMUNITY, SCHOOL SUPPORT

The Trovatos were only able to acquire Ragetti with support from their schools, Gleneagle, where Eddie is the music department head, and Burnaby South secondary, where Michelle is a teacher. Moody elementary has been a big help, as well.

"They fundraised behind our back," Trovato joked, helping the family raise $13,000 needed for the dog.

In June, the family, including Eddie, Matteo, and mom Michelle, and younger brother Enrique, 4, flew to Ohio where they took possession of the two-year-old dog, and underwent 12 days of intensive training.

Eddie Trovato is certified to be the dog handler; he officially "graduated" at the end of the 12-day stay.

"It was very exciting," recalled Michelle, who said they were among 14 families acquiring dogs from Paws 4 Ability that week.

The next chapter will be when school resumes in September at Moody elementary, where the family hopes Ragetti can be integrated over time. "We couldn't have done this without the support of Moody elementary," Michelle acknowledged.

But for now, the boy and his dog will enjoy the last few days of summer.

dstrandberg@tricitynews.com

 

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