Updated: Mar 31, 2021
You wait. Then wait some more, and then wait EVEN longer for what begins to feel like forever….is all this waiting really worth it?
You wait for your ASDA application to be reviewed and accepted
You wait for 2-3 years on the wait list
You wait to learn the name, breed, and gender of your dog
You wait at the airport with excited nerves to fly to Portland Oregon for placement
You wait to hear the magical command of “greet” so you can be introduced
You wait for the Director of Training and Placement to transfer the control of the leash to you for the first time
Then you wait, watch, and optimistically hope for your child to quickly bond with the dog that you have pinned all your dreams on.
Is it really worth it? Simply put YES! Our family has many tools in our toolbox to assist our son in making each day as successful as possible. Success, as you each know, looks different each day and is different for each person. This means the tools we use vary and some days we need every tool in our toolbox. What never changes is the tool that is consistently most effective has the cutest, fluffiest face and goes by the name Toby.
It’s hard to describe the ways in which the service dog will affect your life--until you have that first “aha” moment. Our first “aha” moment was a few months after our first placement. Our son, Hugo, has very little patience to wait and his body is always on the go which made it impossible to hold a conversation with another adult, especially when outside. We had to keep constant eyes on Hugo, be within an arm’s reach, and be ready to protect him from the many things he did not see as dangerous. One afternoon I stood outside of the school talking with his paraprofessional and for the first time with Hugo present we had a full conversation! Hugo sat tethered to his service dog and fidgeted with his dog’s gums for sensory input. Then as the conversation continued Hugo began to lay his head on his dog to feel the warmth of his belly, soft fur, and calming heartbeat. After we had been chatting for about five minutes, while Hugo received deep pressure from his dog, his paraprofessional and I looked at each other and went WOW! I had tears rolling down my face because I was able to have a simple conversation without saying “sorry!” “Just a second, I will be right back”, or “hold on!” Instead,Hugo lay calmly, safely and HAPPILY next to his dog!
All that waiting for our ASDA dog now provides my child the ability to:
Wait safely in lines
Wait safely for mom to talk to a friend
Wait safely at a restaurant …. store …. bank
Wait safely his turn for a ride…. slide…. swing
Wait safely to cross the street…. parking lot… bridge
With all this waiting came many firsts, new friends, and lots of great memories as a family. We are on our second Autism Service dog. It has been life changing! I never thought my impatient waiting would turn into my child’s patient waiting. Before receiving our son’s first service dog, we wondered if it would be worth it. It was, and I will never forget that first “aha” moment!
Follow all of Hugo and Toby’s adventures on FB: Hugo and his ASDA dog
Or you can read their children’s story “Hugo’s Hero”