Part 2 – Placement(Part 1 – Repurposing)
Today is the Jewish New Year, September 29th by one calendar, the 7th month of Tishrei and the year 5772 by another. It is the first of the High Holy Days or Yamim Noraim (“Days of Awe”), and just over a week since Bubbles has moved into her new home a stone’s throw from Lake Erie.
In awe am I at how well suited and responsible Bubbles is to her boy. I look forward to another session in the family home tomorrow, this time with my daughter Sophie. She is the representative for the adults of the first of many little miracles Bubbles is directly or indirectly responsible for in the life of one spunky autistic boy, Sammy.
The first half of the session — 2 hours long — focused on introductions of Bubbles to her new home and adult people – Mom Jessica, Dad Gary and Aunt Joyce. Bubbles’ behavior suggested a comfort in being in the house. She explored while we set up her new crate and went over basics. The adults began learning Bubbles’ basic cues — touch/come, sit, down, stay, and go to your crate.
The weather that afternoon consisted of a pattern of off and on heavy rain. During one such bout, Sammy’s school bus pulled up. In he came from his kindergarten class at The Cleveland Clinic Center for Autism. I observed his baseline behaviors in the home on this most unusual day — the moving in of Bubbles.
Sammy’s greatest desire is to be outside, regardless of weather. Thus it is that he came in, regarded the dog, and then worked his way to going outside. After he took off his shoes. He quickly returned inside and pulled off puddle wet socks, eyeing Bubbles. We spent some time acclimating him to her presence and I made more observations of his non-stop movement, impulsivity and risky behavior which culminated in a lot of redirecting, adults grabbing him and by force redirecting him to some semblance of appropriate behavior. I also noticed Bubbles keeping a sharp eye on him.
The rain let up and I suggested we go outside to do some leash walking, another very important basic skill. The family wanted to go into the securely fenced in backyard since Sam was such an elopement risk, but I figured with four adults and a house near the end of a quiet and dead end street (albeit leading to Lake Erie, but through a locked gate), we’d be able to manage if he should bolt.
First up, Mom. Bubbles’ tested her as is her adolescent nature. And as Jessica worked through the elements of loose leash walking, Gary held on to a scrambling, fussing and pulling Sammy. Sensing the frustration, and really because Gary wanted to go inside again, I suggested a swap. Gary took over Bubbles, mom and Aunt Joyce shared the wrangling of Sam.
Gary was more successful than Jessica in his handling of Bubbles — he exudes a quiet calm — but now Joyce and Jessica were getting their share of frustration with wriggly Sam. I surveyed the environment. And suggested we let Sammy go and see what happens. And so Jessica let go. Sammy took a moment, realized he was free, and bolted. Away from us, towards Lake Erie. He is a fast little spitfire!
Taking a chance, I walked calmly over to Gary and Bubbles, unhooked the leash and said, “Bubbles, go get your boy.” And off she ran, straight for him, with purpose. She easily caught up, passed him, turned around and cut him off at the pass. He stopped, seemingly in shock, and froze. Jessica went towards him and took his hand. I called Bubbles over and praised her to the moon and back. I had NEVER asked her to do this before — SHE JUST GOT IT. I was so thrilled.
Sam began his struggle for freedom again after Bubbles was at my side, away from him. I suggested mom drop his hand. She did. Off he ran again.This time I said, “Bubbles, go get Sammy.” Off she ran, dead straight towards him, again passing him easily and cutting him off. She didn’t touch him, threaten to jump. She just blocked him with her body position. He ran back to the house, opened the front door, went in and slammed the door. Gary, Joyce, Jessica and I just stared at each other.
“Has he ever run into the house on his own before?” I asked. “No, never.” replied the shocked and obviously thrilled adults. I grinned. Clearly Bubbles is home.
STAY TUNED FOR PART 3.