This Fall, I applied for an Autism Service Dog for Max from National Service Dogs. Part of their application process is to have an in home interview with the family. We received a visit last night from Janine (one of their trainers), and her ambassador dog, Nikon. She spent 2 hours with us going over the program, answering questions, and no doubt observing us to make sure we are up to the task of bringing a service dog into our home.
Max typically likes animals. Whenever we are on a walk he is interested in the dogs he sees and will pet the animal if the owner stops and says it is okay. I think that Max was a little bit overwhelmed last night as we have never had a dog that size (Nikon is 80 lbs!) in our house, and we also had the entire Carefoot crew in attendance. With Janine, that made 5 adults, 2 kids and a dog. Nikon is an amazingly patient dog. While he isn’t a working service dog, he has received all of the service dog training and stayed calm through all of the noise, screaming, getting poked and prodded by my 2 year old daughter Cameron, having Max rest his feet on him, and being the centre of attention.
Nikon is a very observant dog, and he kept his eyes locked on Max for most of the visit. It was interesting to me that even though we didn’t specifically try to have Max and Nikon interact, Nikon seemed to know that Max was the reason he was at our home. Janine explained that it can take a fair bit of time for a child with Autism to bond with their dog. The main reason for an Autism Service Dog is for safety precautions. With a service dog, I wouldn’t have to worry about Max bolting. We will be able to take Max places we aren’t currently able to go to (even travel!!) once he has a service dog because safety issues will be addressed. Also, once Max is bonded to his dog, his dog becomes his constant, instead of his environment. Right now Max always sleeps at home because being in his bed is his constant. Our hope is that once he has a dog, he will be able to sleep over at his Grandparent’s house, because he would feel comfortable and safe as long as his dog is with him.
The Autism Service Dogs are typically labs, retrievers, or lab retriever crosses. They are bred by National Service Dogs in Cambridge, Ontario, specifically for working with children Autism. The dogs are matched to a child based on their personality traits and the needs of the child. The current waiting period to receive a service dog is 2.5 years, so if we are accepted into the program, Max would receive his dog sometime in the Spring of 2013. The dogs are registered service dogs, so they can go anywhere, including on planes, in restaurants, you name it, they are just like a service dog for the blind. Having an Autism Service Dog will open up an entire world of possibilities of where we can take Max, which is very exciting. I have been asked by several people how to donate to National Service Dogs. You can even donate in Max’s name so that your contribution is applied towards his dog! I’m really excited about working towards Max having his own dog. It’s a ways off, but time has a way of flying by so I have a feeling we’ll be adding a four legged friend to our family before we know it!