We arrived for our visit with J. and he was riding a tricycle. He was happy to see Kirby and rode right up to his stroller. I had been told that the time since our last visit was remarkable. He had been much more social, verbal and actually started conversations with people by talking about Kirby. I was told he never started a conversation before but he walked right into a therapy session and said “Hi, this is Coco,” and showed his Coco doll. He seemed more at ease when seeing other dogs and told everyone he knew that he had a dog friend. He showed everyone Kirby’s trading card and carried his Coco doll everywhere. He even slept with Coco.
We went into a therapy room and at first J. said Kirby should stay in his buggy.
J. speaks in the third person so after a little while he said Kirby could come close. He said “J. wants Kirby.” He didn’t object to Kirby lying on his blanket nearby. If Kirby got too close, J. would make it known the little dog should back away a bit, so he did. As soon as Kirby moved further away, J. would lean in and get himself closer.
Everything was on J.’s terms.
J. was much more verbal and not just repeating phrases as before. He initiated talk and without any doubt wanted Kirby nearby. He said the dog’s name several times, and shook my hand to greet me and let me sit on the couch next to him.
Then after about half an hour a little hand very tentatively touched Kirby. The little dog was lying right in front of J. but turned away so his back was towards the child. A small hand so barely touched the little dog’s fur it was almost missed.
Then we read a story together about how to greet a new dog. The boy in the story looked a lot like J. and he liked that.
J. held onto Kirby’s leash and looked directly at him. When the little dog looked back, J. did not flinch but retained his gaze. He even smiled at Kirby and said his name.Then his therapist thought it was a good idea to hold Kirby so she did. She cradled him gently in her arms and he started wagging his tail. He was so happy.
After watching this for a while J. said it would be okay for Kirby to sit in his lap. As soon as the little dog got comfortable, J. reached out to hold him. What a beautiful moment.
Then J. said “Walk Kirby” so we took him outside for a brief walk to go potty. It was raining but J. put his hood up and brave Kirby walked in the rain until he found a spot to potty. J. never let go of the leash.
At this visit we showed J. pictures of other Love Dogs and told him he could meet them if he wanted to. Big dogs, different dogs and he said that would be ok. So next week he will meet Benny. Then for Christmas we may have some larger dogs visit.
So while we were initially brought in to work with this child on his fear of dogs, we are seeing tremendous benefits in other areas such as focus, speech and socialization.
Children on the autism spectrum can benefit greatly from the healing power of pets when facilitated with a protocol created by the child’s entire care team. We are proud to be a part of J.’s team.