“Thursday we see Benny, right?” asks Julian several days before each Thursday. All week he talks about Benny and how they will work together and it helps the week go smoothly. Every Thursday for two years Julian has met with his therapy dog Benny. Every Thursday for two years Julian has come to trust and love Benny.
This is about to change as the family moves to a new state. How to prepare Julian for such a major change in his life is critical. Julian is on the autism spectrum and each time we meet, it is a new adventure for child, dog, handler, therapist, mom.
But the one constant is the love boy and dog share for one another.
Benny is a fourteen pound poodle mix who was rescued after having four homes the first year of his life. He has some residual damage from a less than perfect start in life. Julian is a young man who shares some of Benny’s issues such as impatience, frustration and a low ability to concentrate.
But they found each other and together overcame so many obstacles.
And they both have a huge capacity to love.
Each Thursday we come up with a new protocol and way in which to integrate the use of the dog in Julian’s therapies. This routine has become so important to both child and dog. Benny always knows when it is time to see Julian and his demeanor is different than any other place he works.
Since Julian has learned he will be moving, his level of comprehension is unclear. But this we do know. The dog senses a change in his friend and is especially loving and patient. He knows Julian is having trouble concentrating and looking at him. Burt that’s ok as long as they still enjoy the time together.
Today Julian wanted to pick up Benny and put him in his lap. Such a simple activity became more involved than before. Julian had difficulty focusing on what he had to do to lift the dog. But once he realized the steps involved, he got on with it. The dog was so gentle and still while the child maneuvered the lift.
Once Benny was in the Julian’s lap, he received such a sweet hug.
Our next challenge is finding ways to continue this relationship long distance. Julian has met twenty Love Dogs and one cat, and while Julian may become involved with other therapy dogs, there will always be just one Benny – the dog that unlocked the key to friendship.
So the journey will continue across the miles and Julian will take with him the many binders of photos and the worksheets he has created with the Love Dogs. And he will take the stories written about them and the Adventures they went on together.
Adventures into emotion and thought and kindness and patience and bravery.
Adventures into love.
Adventures into understanding.
This must continue.