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An Anchor for Em: The sweetest Valentine Gift

We were introduced to the concept of an autism service dog in 2014 when a family member of a student of ours shared their ASDA experience (Austin and Izzie). At the time, we were heavily involved with OT, SLPs, IEPs, social groups and various appointments for our daughter and son (both have the trifecta diagnosis of autism, anxiety and ADHD). As most families, we were anxious to find support – anything that might help our children feel successful; however, the idea of fundraising for our two who were both transitioning to middle school was overwhelming, as was the decision of determining which child’s name would be on the first application.

Fast forward four years, the needs of our children changed dramatically during their middle school years, leaving no question of Emma’s need for the “anchoring” of a service dog. We submitted her application in 2018. The “waiting place” between submitting the application and receiving Emma’s service dog was “exhausting and difficult” (Bil). We felt alone and unsure of how all would turn out. We grieved as we watched painful high school years pass and wondered what might have been if we had reached out sooner.

Hearing about the impact and the improvement for other children once they received their dog only increased our anxiousness as we watched our daughter struggle. Seven months ago (during Emma’s senior year), Vogue joined our family. The call, the scheduling, and the eventual meeting of this precious dog filled our hearts as we waited to see how our daughter’s life would change. Vogue’s impact is real. She is an amazing tool that our daughter is still learning to use properly - and we are too. Our daughter still has autism, and she still struggles. Oftentimes the training and care for Vogue falls on mom and dad - “which we happily do” (Bil).

Life is full of waiting places. We transitioned from submitting to hoping to receiving and yet we know there will be and look forward to more to come! Our moving forward does not diminish the exhausting or difficult parts of the past, but it does provide the perspective of looking back and learning from them. For the Caillier family--we are gaining an increased understanding of the roles, needs and abilities of this terrific twosome. With that understanding, our confidence, gratitude and love has grown!

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