Pet-sitting business gives jobs to people with autism

GLADWYNE, Pa. -- Any dog is going to get excited about a good walk, but it's hard to find someone more excited about walking the dog than 23-year-old Ira Tucker.

"Of course he's shy like most autistic people and not really quick to warm up to people, so I love that he deals with dogs because animals are easier than people," said Tucker's mom, Lisa Edwards.

Tucker is employed through a business called PETacular Pet Sitting that partners with the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support to find employees and pair them with student scholars.

"I partner along with him, I walk, and then I also have the iPad here where I continuously take data for the research center," said Kathleen O'Neill, a scholar in the program.

Tucker walks Lucy the dog twice a week and then gives her treats and water. The whole job may only take about half an hour each time, but his mom said that work has completely changed his life.

His self-esteem is through the roof because he feels like I have a job, I have someone else who counts on me. He's a different person, he's really blossomed since he started this," said Edwards.

She says one of the best parts of the week is when her son gets his paycheck, but she thinks people may be surprised how he likes to spend his hard-earned money.

"He wants to go to the bank, then Five Below, and to buy treats for Lucy," she said.
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