“Don’t be afraid to close your eyes and dream. Don’t be nervous to open your eyes and create those dreams into realities.”
Seems so fitting after the past few weeks. There are no words to describe how beyond excited we are to have Jude VI to join our family. We recently completed an intensive two- week training course at Canine Companions for Independence. We have been carefully matched with a specially trained assistance dog and worked hard with Canine Companion teams during the course to begin to form a strong relationship with our new working dog, Jude VI.
I found Canine Companions for Independence after doing some serious homework. 2 years ago, I started researching about service animals all over the U.S. I recognized the impact horses have been for Cody in equine therapy and the possibilities a dog could give him, kept growing in my mind.
22 months ago, I found and fell in love with Canine Companions for Independence. I reached out to a childhood friend and another one that I met when we started our autism journey who were also graduates from Canine Companions and they were able to share with me their personal experiences. I then took a tour of the campus and a few months later attended a graduation. I followed Waldo’s blog and I would find myself taking short breaks at work to watch the LIVE Puppy Cam on Canine Companions You Tube channel and believed this is an organization, I want to be a part of.
Fast forward 12 months later, we applied. It’s a 7 step process including an online and a written application, a series of phone and face to face interviews, medical and professional references, selection review and then a team training invitation.
One of the happiest days for me was July 30th. This was the date we received approval to be put on a wait-list to attend team training. A few months later, we received a call to attend.
During graduation, we were asked to be interviewed with WFAA channel 8 news.
You can watch it here: https://youtu.be/DwRcoWKONr0
This interview raised a lot of awareness and several have reached out to me to better understand what Cody’s skilled companion, Jude VI will do for him. If you follow my page, you know this is a very important mission of mine to better educate others an understanding of autism through the eyes of our family.
For Cody, trying new things and taking risks, this is really where growth takes place. The trainers have been very special to us through this process and we have learned so much.
Imagine a dog that could help…
with Socialization. Giving Cody opportunities to interact with his peers by being a social bridge between him and his peers.
Imagine giving us a tool box full of ideas to incorporate Jude into his existing therapies to help him learn to use vocals or even possibly the communication benefits by adding commands to his communication device on is iPad?
Imagine the Increased independence and responsibilities we could offer Cody with a companion with feeding, walking, grooming, etc.)
Self-care and Independence when Cody grows older is something Brad and I often worry about. The self-caring that goes in to taking care of Jude will make this fun, provide responsibility and further grow his independence.
Imagine a companion that could ease Cody’s high anxiety and providing comfort at doctor offices? We have not been able to go to dentist yet.
Imagine a companion that can help guide in unfamiliar public areas and help with obstacle avoidance with sensory input becomes too much?
Imagine attending an entire baseball game as a family together?
Over the past few weeks during team training, we have learned approximately 50 commands to support these goals.
The timing was important to us too. Cody and his brother have a very special bond. One that neither Brad or I have with Cody. Our hope is to create a very special connection between Cody and Jude to assist in an easier transition when Cameron heads off to college. Cody having a friend who never judges and who is always there while his brother goes on his college adventures, is very important to us for them both of them to be successful.
The first time we met Jude VI….no words can describe this moment. Lots of tears of course. Jude’s name is so fitting. When you meet her, you will catch yourself singing The Beatles hit, Hey Jude because it also best describes her calming demeanor. Which will be such a beautiful blend for Cody. With Cody’s autism and being nonverbal, over the years we have learned to better understand Cody’s behaviors through his eyes and over all body language since he cannot speak a lot of words. Just because he may not be able to expressively share his excitement, we could see it and we felt it. When Jude came and laid down on her bed, we told Cody, “Jude is your new buddy who may come home with us.” He scooched to the side of her bed next to her with his little butt in the air, hands under his chin with a smile we will never forget. He then leaned over and kissed her on the head.
The past two weeks of Team Training, the families attending have truly become an extended family. We have shared private and tender moments that are all important to us with our companions. In just one week, we have seen a difference in Cody. You see love and a connection starting to create in their own unique bond. It’s hard to put into words how that feels. Saturday night Jude laid beside Cody during story time. After I finished reading, I left his room and Jude stayed with him until he fell asleep.
There are no words that describe the level of appreciation we have for this amazing organization. Our family would not be able to afford this level of a companion and the costs involved in breeding, raising and training such an incredible dog. $50,000 to be exact.
It does not go unnoticed the support of the trainers, staff, puppy raisers, donors, sponsors and volunteers. How do you tell someone thank you in a way that is that big enough? It’s not even possible. What I do know is this is an organization that I will want to be a part of for my lifetime.
Being a special needs parent, everything is harder. Going in public is harder. Going to the doctor is harder. And now that we have Jude, who will be Cody’s friend who will always be there and never judge will make things so much easier. Forever grateful.