Signey and Scottie
Service dogs can be a great help to people with autism. In October of 2015 Jackie shared about her family’s reasons for getting a service dog for her daughter. Here’s a followup post on how things have gone, and how a service dog has helped Signey grow.
So, when we decided to buy a service dog for our daughter, Signey, we knew there would be some hurdles and hoops to jump through. The first was getting her comfortable with dogs and then it was the training. After this we needed to pay for the dog, and lastly we needed to find a way to get him into school with her.
All of these steps took work and dedication on everybody’s part. Signey was very afraid of dogs before we decided this might be an option. It took a few visits before she would even get close to Scottie. Once she was able to touch him for the first time the real work began. We started training and learning about dogs in the service industry. It felt like we were learning about Autism all over again but in a different way. Now were trying to figure out how to use this dog to help her with the issues that we had been struggling with.
Training was long and tedious at times and before he could be fully certified he needed to be tested. In the meantime I had to take him to work with me so he could continue learning how to “work.” I am an employee in a school division so I brought him to the schools I work at. At first nobody spoke a word and it seemed as though everybody was supportive. A few months later I was told there was a new division policy on service dogs and so the hoops began. I figured out the paperwork I needed and all the little pieces that had to be completed before I could continue bringing him to work with me. Fortunately, this served me well when he was going to start school with Signey.
I spoke to the principal of Signey’s school before this whole process started and she was wonderful. She was aware that they were not able to refuse the service dog and was willing to work with us on whatever needed to be done. We needed several forms filled out and letters from veterinarians and the agency that trained him. I had a package made up for my schools and Signey’s school. It was time consuming.
The agency that trained Scottie came to the school and did some training with the staff that would be in contact with Scottie. I also did a few assemblies and classroom visits to explain what Scottie was for and how the students were not able to touch him.
He started school in March of 2015. The teachers and staff have been great about having him in the building. I know there have been some frustrations which I expected. Not every teacher has been as accommodating as others, and there have been events that have been problematic such as a Christmas concert where Scottie was terrified of the loud noises from the speakers. I have had to spend time at the school continuing to help and problem solve. The agency has also been a huge support and continue to help us through.
The cost of the dogs is rather overwhelming. We did do fundraising and were fortunate enough to be able to finish paying for Scottie. There are ongoing costs as would be expected. He is a high needs dog in terms of grooming and it needs to be done often. His food is pricey and we have pet insurance just in case something were to happen. He needs yearly shots and is not allowed in the school unless we prove they are done. His ongoing training does not cost us anything as it is part of the price of the dog.
Scottie has been a wonderful tool for Signey in terms of helping her self regulate. She uses him more and more as time goes on. His fur seems to feel really good to her and she often uses that as a calming tool. Her communication has improved since she got Scottie because so many of her peers ask her questions about him as do strangers and she is eager is answer to the best of her ability. I have seen her peers speak to her on a daily basis at school and it is wonderful. She has a new found sense of responsibility and has Scottie chores to do at home. I see pride in her when she is walking with him. We used to have two leashes, one for her and one for the adult. Now she walks him alone and is learning to control him. It has been completely amazing!!!!!
The question we are asked most often is “does he ever get to just be a dog?” YES, he certainly does. When we get home the vest comes off and he is one of the family. He loves running around with our children and playing. He is such a great dog and we are so happy to have him……
So in conclusion, it is a very overwhelming process that requires a lot of time, money and dedication. It isn’t always easy and sometimes it’s downright difficult but we wouldn’t have things any other way.