As a parent, we all worry about our kids, and hope they have a happy fulfilled life as an adult. We put all our energies in teaching them right from wrong, manners and basic living skills. Throw in a diagnosis of autism and a whole new set of worries come up. Will he ever drive a car, get a job, live on his own; what will happen when I die?
I have done a lot of reading and I have a lot of hope for my son. I try to be realistic with regard to his abilities. I know he will never do many things but I know he can do so much. One book I read was called A Friend Like Henry – By Nuala Gardner.
Some of her descriptions of her sons behavior were so like my son, I found myself laughing and crying and shaking my head in understanding. In the story, the family decides to get a golden retriever as a pet/ therapy dog for their son. They name the dog after Henry the green engine of Thomas the Tank fame,of which their son was a huge fan. . Remarkably it does wonders for their son. The calmness of the dog gave their son focus and he began to learn things the family never thought possible.
Recently we have been reading more about service dogs for our son, and have had conversations regarding the feasibility, expense, benefits and drawbacks of such. When we started looking we had a small dog- a chihuahua we rescued and didn’t think it was the right time. After losing our dog to old age and illness, we still didn’t think it right yet for another pet. Until, of course, our son decided he needed a new pet. He exclaimed he needed a “man dog named Henry”. I asked him why Henry – thinking because he had a grandpa Henry- nope Henry like the green engine ! Wow I had chills, and hope.
We went about researching some more on service dogs and found that it is possible, but quite costly. I know, what price do you put on independence? Also we found that it could take over a year to receive the dog. We were hoping for something faster. More research on just a new pet. After much consideration, we decided to look at a golden retriever.
Sept 2 we went to the home where the dogs were. The owners had the mom and dad dog and the puppies. We looked at the 2 males and one came up to me and with his big brown eyes gave me that look. You all know it. Pick Me, Pick me. And we did. And yes his name is Henry.
For the last 2 months we have all been learning. Henry is figuring out he lives here, and our son is figuring out he likes his new friend. We are fortunate enough to live around the corner from the dog park. Every day we take Henry for his walk and he likes to join his new friends in play. Lately our son has brought him there by himself, just before I come home from work and I stop on my way, then he takes Henry home. Our son has a walkie-talkie and dad is at home with the other. Our son gets upset when I get there because Henry runs to me. He tells me- NO Henry is with me. Today our son was allowed to take Henry there on his own- and bring him home on his own. For anyone who has an autistic child, you may know – this is huge.
Our Henry may not be a trained service dog yet, but he has certainly done wonders for our son. I can’t wait to see how much more our son will grow