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Rye Family Searches For Missing Service Dog

The Fontana family of Rye is searching for Echo, a service dog for their five-year-old autistic child, who has been missing since Wednesday. Photo Credit: Contributed
Mark Fontana and his beloved service dog, Echo. Photo Credit: Contributed
Echo was last seen near the Cornerstone Bakery and Hix Park area in Rye on Wednesday evening. Photo Credit: Contributed
Mark, a 5-year-old autistic child in Rye, and his service dog, Echo.
Mark, a 5-year-old autistic child in Rye, and his service dog, Echo. Video Credit: Contributed

RYE, N.Y. -- A Rye family is looking for a missing service dog for a 5-year-old autistic child.

Echo is a small, female black lab weighing approximately 50 to 55 pounds. She was last seen Wednesday around 7 p.m. near Cornerstone Bakery and the Hix Park area in Rye. Her collar is red and says Guiding Eyes for the Blind with their phone number. Echo is microchipped, doesn't bark or bite and is described as very friendly.

Emily Fontana said that her family got Echo from Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown in September to help care for her son, Mark after a one-year wait. She said that her son doesn't talk and frequently attempts to run off, and the family got Echo to help tether him and prevent him from running away or harming himself. The family was hesitant to go out in public for fear of his safety and that he might cause a disturbance. Emily said that Echo has had a calming effect on Mark, and the transformation has been remarkable.

Since the family got Echo, people come up to Mark and his dog, which helps him with socialization and contact. The family avoided going to church for a year, but after receiving Echo they decided to go back. The priest invited Mark and Echo up onto the stage after the service, and the two received applause from the entire congregation.

"It was unbelievable. Our family went from one of the darkest times of our lives to feeling like this wasn't the end of our life.  We could be a family and Mark could live a meaningful life," she said.

Emily believes the dog may have slipped out of the house and, because she is trained not to bark, may not have drawn attention to herself. The family has been working to spread the word about the missing dog. Rye police have sent out a Nixel alert and have notified Harrison police. The family is also bringing in a tracker to try and find Echo.

If you see Echo, contact Emily at 914-967-2796, Rye police at 914-967-1234 or Guiding Eyes at the number on the collar.

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