We had our last official therapy session with Julian this week. Two years of weekly sessions have come to an end as the family moves to a new state. It is a great time to remember those first visits two years ago and celebrate the enormous progress made over the years.
When we were asked to bring in a therapy dog to meet a young boy who was deathly, and dangerously, afraid of dogs, no one realized the impact this relationship would have in his life. And ours.
Julian is on the autism spectrum and as smart as can be. But this fear made his life, and that of his family, impossibly challenging. They could not go to parks or anywhere they may encounter a dog.
The first dog he met was little Kirby. At that time Kirby was blind and deaf and worked in a stroller. He had had ten+ surgeries and was just the greatest therapy dog. A true survivor.
Kirby wheeled into the therapy room in his stroller and was as quiet as could be. After a very short period of time, he was brought out of the stroller and laid on his blanket right next to Julian.
That very first day Julian was petting the little dog and the journey began.
After a few sessions with Kirby, Benny was introduced. And the most amazing relationship was forged. Little boy afraid of dogs and little dog who had once been afraid of people. For the next two years Benny was Julian’s best buddy and together they met twenty one more dogs and one remarkable therapy cat!
This week was the last session so it was just Julian and Benny. Two boys that found each other and found friendship in the truest sense. As we celebrate the tremendous progress Julian has made not only in his ability to be around dogs, but his comprehension, focus, language, memory, communication, and so many other life skills, we also celebrate the changes in Benny.
I know most people thought the last therapy session would involve boy and dog doing something together like playing with a game or toy.
But actually the best part of our last session with Julian was his ability to focus on other activities, with Benny close by. Working on puzzles I brought and accomplishing a very difficult word game, with his furry friend almost in his lap, was a beautiful thing to watch. The child with an inability to focus with stimulus around him, and the dog who had such a low attention span when we met, were content to just “be together.”
Through his connection to this one little boy, Benny became the greatest therapy dog. He was quiet, patient, loving, proud and content to do or be whatever we asked of him. Thursday mornings were always reserved for time with Julian, so now I will find something special to do with Benny those mornings.
We will keep the relationship with Julian going by virtual means. I am curious to see if Benny likes Facetime!
But the most important part of saying goodbye is welcoming new experiences. We can’t wait to hear about Julian and his brother Mateo and how they are loving their new home.
And I know they look forward to hearing what the Love Dogs are up to.
So as I tell Benny we won’t see Julian every week anymore, I also tell him there must be a new child waiting for us
A new girl or boy who needs only the kind of love a Love Dog can give.
Maybe it will be a teenager or a very very small child.
Or maybe it will be two children working together.
We are open to whatever comes next, as we know Julian and his family are walking towards their new life with open arms.