The Dog That Changed Ev­ery­thing

For this fam­ily strug­gling to take care of two lit­tle boys with autism, Sup­port Dog Ro­man was the un­ex­pected an­swer to a prayer

Modern Dog - - CONTENTS -

For this fam­ily strug­gling to take care of two lit­tle boys with autism, sup­port dog Ro­man was the un­ex­pected an­swer to a prayer.

Ro­man joined our fam­ily in the sum­mer of 2016 and our lives have been for­ever changed. Our story, like many oth­ers, in­cludes sad­ness, fear, help­less­ness, and un­cer­tainty, but is filled with joy, hap­pi­ness, love, and hope. We are a mommy, daddy, and two beau­ti­ful boys, Sawyer and Ryker. Our boys are very dif­fer­ent but share a love of video games, toys, mu­sic, be­ing ac­tive, an­i­mals, and na­ture. They also both have Autism Spec­trum Dis­or­der or ASD.

Early on we learned nei­ther Sawyer nor Ryker un­der­stood the con­cept of per­sonal safety and had the ten­dency to “bolt.” Bolt­ing or run­ning off hap­pens in an in­stant with no pre­dictabil­ity and can be trig­gered by any­thing, for rea­sons we don’t al­ways un­der­stand. Strug­gles with so­cial sit­u­a­tions, anx­i­ety, and sen­sory chal­lenges also im­pact our day-to-day lives. The boys need one-on-one sup­port out­side of our home; if two adults aren’t avail­able we can’t go out which can be very iso­lat­ing at times.

The first time we met Autism Sup­port Dog Ro­man, my son Ryker got up­set about some­thing and ran to his room. With­out a word, Ro­man fol­lowed and put his head down. Ryker wrapped his arms around Ro­man’s neck for a hug and you could feel Ryker ex­hale. The fol­low­ing week when Laura, a trainer with BC & Al­berta Guide Dogs, called to tell us Ro­man would join our fam­ily, well, it’s im­pos­si­ble to de­scribe how that made us feel.

Ro­man works with both of our boys. We were as­signed two very spe­cial train­ers, Laura and Nic. They didn’t just train us how to work with Ro­man, they did so much more, more than they prob­a­bly re­al­ize. These two sim­ply amaz­ing women had an im­pact on our whole fam­ily in a very pos­i­tive way.

Grad­u­a­tion for us was three weeks later. What has changed? Ev­ery­thing. I could ex­plain in de­tail how Ro­man makes us feel, that all of us have less anx­i­ety, that with Ro­man I can take the boys out on my own so we aren’t iso­lated any­more, how we’ve gone places we could never have gone be­fore and done things we didn’t think we could do, but in­stead I’ll share words from our fam­ily over the past weeks…

“I don’t feel sad and an­gry any­more. How does Ro­man make it so I’m not sad and an­gry?” “Can I go swim­ming at the dog park to­day?” “Ro­man made it so I could but­ton up a shirt! I never did that be­fore! Can you be­lieve it?!” “Can I feed Ro­man his break­fast?” “How do I hold the bag? And pick it up? It smells. Dog poo is gross, adults should do this only.” “We never went for walks here be­fore!” “Ro­man, you’re my bestest friend ever.” “We need to clean our toys up so Ro­man doesn’t eat them.” “What ad­ven­ture are we go­ing on to­day?” “Are Laura and Nic go­ing to come to my birth­day party?” “I’m glad Ro­man keeps me safe be­cause, you know what? I don’t know why I run away; I can’t help it.” “I love him so much.” “Can we go to Dis­ney­land to­mor­row be­cause we have Ro­man now?” “I feel like I can breathe for the first time in years.” “I never knew he could change things this much or that I could love a dog this much.”

“How is ‘thank you’ to ev­ery­body in­volved in bring­ing Ro­man into our lives ever enough?”

“This is Ro­man. He’s our Autism Sup­port Dog. Me and my brother have autism and he helps make us safe” “You know what Ro­man does? He makes my heart happy.” To BC & Al­berta Guide Dogs, Autism Sup­port Dog Team #37, thanks and grat­i­tude for bring­ing Ro­man into our lives.—Heather

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