Autistic Boy and His Dog are Special Cross Country Race Team

Tyler Gerdts is 17 years old, and     is autistic.  He and his dog, Hugo, make up a special, cross country racing team for Tyler’s high school.  Hugo is with Tyler every step of the way, giving him the emotional and social support that he needs to make it both on and off the track.


This first photo was taken of Tyler and Hugo in the front hallway of Davenport West High School.  Here , the team was waiting to be taken to cross country track meet against Clinton High School.  Straight away, it’s easy to see the special bond between them.

Tyler isn’t just another runner on the cross team.  He helps get the team set up and things prepared for his school to be in the best possible position to win on all levels.


Here’s a photo with Tyler, and team coach Marty Leal.  Coach Leal has been a very important mentor for Tyler.  He has known Tyler since the seventh grade, and has helped him both on and off the race track.


This photo shows Tyler with his dad, Scott.  Scott is a huge supporter of Tyler and not just because he is Tyler’s dad.  He was the one that came up with the idea of getting Hugo to help Tyler.


Here, Hugo gets a post race snack, and some much needed liquid refreshment


To keep things on the track fair, Hugo and Tyler must cross the finish line together.  Tyler cannot pull Hugo across the line, nor my Hugo pull Tyler.


The two have a special start time for a race as well.  They will typically go about 30 seconds after everyone else does.  This helps both Tyler and Hugo not get tangled up with all of the other racers, making things safer for everyone.


The 30 second delay doesn’t get factored into his actual completion time.  His coach starts a separate stopwatch for him when he and Hugo take off.


Hugo is far more than just a racing partner for Tyler.  Hugo has been instrumental in helping Tyler cope with everything from the day to day basics, all the way to keeping Tyler emotionally and mentally even.


Hugo is a great dog.  He’s living proof that no matter what your circumstances are, anyone can “get by with a little help from their friends.”

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