Started my research a month ago looking for the right organization to get Cody a dog. There are several different organizations out there all with different missions, requirements and fees. The process takes around two years for the training before Cody would even get to meet his four legged companion and an average cost for a service dog can vary around $7,000 up to $20,000. Anything is PAWsable right? I see a lot of fundraising in my future. Cody has always been surrounded by lots of furry friends and one reason why I believe of the benefits.
I was recently on a phone interview with an organization and she asked me, “What was most important that we gain having a companion dog for Cody?” I explained, “Being non-verbal, Cody needs a companion to decrease anxiety during medical visits, school activities, travel, etc. Having a service dog that can recognize and gently interrupt dangerous situations or even block while walking into an intersection. A companion that might respond to signs of anxiety or agitation with a calming action for Cody. I have seen how some dogs gently lay across a child’s lap similar to a weighted blanket. A dog to help him sleep soundly by being by his side in bed. Cody uses a weighted blanket and it seems to be the answer to a good night’s rest right now. I also think it’s important to have a companion that could nudge him a bit in social settings if we are playing at a park or at a school function.
I have learned through my research that there are different types of animals that are used for autism and many other disabilities. A Companion, Therapy and Service animal.
Companion: Golden retrievers, labs and labradoodles (lab-poodle mixes) tend to make good therapy dogs given their calm, loving disposition and high intelligence. An affectionate dog provides unconditional love and friendship on a daily basis. Walking the dog provides both exercise and a “social magnet” to ease conversation with our children. Learning to care for the dog teaches responsibility and practical skills. And pets provide parents with opportunities to teach and model caring behaviors and consideration of a friend’s needs – both important social skills.
Service: These dogs receive extensive training and official certification to help perform functions that present a challenge for a child with autism or other disabilities.
Therapy: These dogs are trained to provide affection and comfort in therapeutic situations. Typically, they work in hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare and mental health facilities. Outside of medical settings, therapy dogs have become popular in the autism community for their calming influence and ability to promote social interaction.
At the end of the day, selecting the right animal means finding a highly individual “match” with Cody’s needs as well as our family needs. I have learned that this process will take patience. Home visits, special training, waiting periods can take up to two years from start to finish. Cody’s dog will need to train for our unique needs. Such as spending time on baseball fields, attending clay shooting competitions, being around horses, etc.
Our hope is to create a very special connection between Cody and his dog. My hope is to have this in place by the time Cameron graduates high school as this might be a tough transition too.
I am at the beginning stages of this process and still have a lot of homework to do but ready to start digging in and getting my paws dirty. I recently was very intrigued by one nonprofit organization out of Missouri I came across and their mission is helping the rescued become the rescuers. Being a dog owner to many rescuers in my life time, I love this concept.