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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Dog Therapy

My older son is a boy of few words. He rarely fills the world with idle chatter but it takes all sorts when it comes to the autism spectrum.

He has been known to wax lyrical on occasions, usually on the subject of Pokemon and more recently Spore, but other than that his silence is particular and dogged. That said, there is a particular dog, his own, who has an undue influence upon him. The influence of Thatcher the dog is all too apparent as we walk the ten minute trip to his first puppy training lesson. As we trot down the road I prepare my son for the hour of tuition, what to expect. I know what to expect because I have already spent six weeks attending the very same class with Thatcher and my daughter. Now it is his turn, my sons.

I worry that the trainer uses more words in the average lungful of breath than many an average Californian. The trainer has a warm and attractive personality. She says the same thing many times and in many different ways which is fabulous for the average learner, but for the differently abled her words are a sea of jumble, verbiage to be tuned out. My only hope is one of her even more advantageous skills. She models the desired behaviour that she teaches with a dog. Forget the words, concentrate on the body movements because my son’s mimicry skills are second to none.

I think these thoughts as I trot next to my son who hangs on to the end of the lead with Thatcher’s long strides on the other end, just enough rope to hang himself. I exude calm over silent panic but of course he’s far more astute than I give him credit for as he hauls the lead into a heel. He pauses, breathless next to Thatcher, poised in a perfect sit. All of a sudden his word bank bursts open with a torrential flood of "reassurance," “iz okay Thatcher, you’d gonna do great, you’re gonna make lots of friends, I’m gonna be there to help you, you’re gonna love the teacher, I’ve got lotsa treats for you, Kindergarten ain’t so bad…….” He continues in this vein for a full 7 minutes of uninterrupted, stutter free syllables until we reach the entrance door. Never say never my friends, we have a pal for life.

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