We finally made it! We got our dates and we are ready to travel to go pick up our dog. Come along with us on the second part of our journey to the service dog! If you missed part 1, you should start here and read about it first. https://faithhealthautism.com/category/therapy-aba-and-all-the-things/
Autism Parenting Secrets recently interviewed our service dog company on the benefits of service dogs. If you click on this link, you can listen to their interview https://autism-parenting-secrets.simplecast.com/episodes/service-dogs-can-be-life-saving-HNK7tBtl
Match Day: December 21, 2022
December 21 will forever be an exciting day in our family. We got our email about 3 weeks before class. All the service dog classes with our company have unique names to keep us all straight. We were assigned to the Lavender Class. Just before Christmas, we got the email written to our boys, Kam and Kris, from our new BFF Massimo!!! And we got a picture!. He is gorgeous, and from what his advanced trainer told us, he is just enough of a goofball to fit right in with our family. Now all we had to do is go.
The Journey to Ohio
Lots of excitement and some nervousness accompanied our trip. We are well aware that our lives are about to permanently change, as caring for a service dog in addition to the family is such a huge responsibility. It took us about 7 hours to get to Ohio from our house in North Carolina. We found our rental, unpacked, and settled in for a long 9 days of training.
The Journey to the Service Dog : Part 2 Meeting Massimo
The next day, Thursday, we arrived a 4 Paws to finally meet our friend we had been waiting for 4 years to meet. Massimo is a Golden Retriever, about a year and a half old, and full of energy. Our first bonding activity: feeding him breakfast. And Massimo loves him some breakfast. Here is a picture of us meeting him for the first time.
Training with Massimo
The good news here is that Massimo is already fully trained. So who were we training? Us. We practiced and practiced. Massimo is a tracking dog, and is trained to find our boys based on their scent. We went outside every morning first thing and met with our trainers in every kind of weather to practice. Toward the end of our training time, we did also practice our tracking in indoor situations as well in areas such as a store. He did great! Tracking is one of his favorite games, and he also gets his favorite treats as a reward.
The Journey to Service Dog: Part 2 Bonding with Kam and Kris
It is taking some time to bond with both boys. Massimo is a large dog and a little intimidating at first. He is also trained to “tattle” or bark at certain behaviors. This was also a little scary to both boys at first. But slowly they are starting to warm up to him. He stays in their room, and the boys feed him. They do enjoy helping brush him ( so much dog hair) and overall he is kind of a gentle giant with them. The first time we took him to ;our rental in Ohio was the second day of training. The boys both went crazy with chirping and hand waving and laughing when they realized that Massimo was in our car and was heading home with us for the night.
Finishing up and Heading Home
We did train in class every day all day for about 9 days. It is kind of an exhausting journey, but we learned so much that we needed to know in order to keep Massimo trained at home. Training has to continue every day at home to help master skills and keep Massimo from getting rusty.
The last day of training we had our public access test that we had been practicing for. Massimo and company passed without any trouble at all ( he was on his best behavior that day) and we officially received our public access certification.
The Journey to Service Dog: Part 2 Graduation Day
After 9 days of training, we officially graduated from service dog class! Oh Happy Day!!! We all wore special shirts with dogs on them. We got to take lots of pictures with special people we met during class including Massimo’s trainers and weekend foster. During our time there, we also met Massimo’s mother, half siblings, sister ( she was in class with us with another family),
It was a wonderful and exhausting experience, a day that we will never forget. We waited 4 long years and are incredibly thankful to see this wish come to pass after so much hard work. We loaded our car and headed back to North Carolina with Massimo!!
Here’s to new adventures, increased safety, and a whole world of new possibilities! another chapter of our journey. If you are looking for a service dog company for your autistic child, here is the link for 4 Paws: https://www.4pawsforability.org/. If you missed it in our Part 1 post, Autism Parenting Secrets did a podcast interview with 4 Paws and you can listen to this here: https://autism-parenting-secrets.simplecast.com/episodes/service-dogs-can-be-life-saving-HNK7tBtl. See ya soon! Follow us on instagram. We love hearing from you!