This year winter splashed into spring, spring to sultry summer, which slipped subtly into fall, the harvest time of year (although my tomatoes never did seem to ripen). Later this week marks Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, considered the new year of people, animals and legal contracts. In the Jewish oral tradition, Rosh Hashanah marks the completion of the creation of the world.
In a fitting parallel, after fits and starts, Bubbles slipped into her new role and made a permanent shift to serve as an autism service dog for her new boy, Sammy. My children, dogs, cats and I have worked tirelessly in helping shape an already incredibly well bred and successfully well socialized golden retriever puppy into a maturing adolescent with a sense of purpose. (CLICK HERE FOR EARLIER POSTS ABOUT BUBBLES)
The family originally slated to receive Bubbles had to pass after it was revealed after placement that their allergies were just too significant a barrier to successful partnering for their autistic son.
Bubbles returned to the fold and for another six weeks we went on numerous public outings, practiced learned skills and added a few new ones all while maintaining a level of accountability that would serve her well when the right home was found.
In the It’s a Small World Department, and in a roundabout cross continental sort of way, by putting out feelers, a neighbor but a block away, with a service dog for her autistic daughter, graciously posted on 2 NE Ohio Autism Support Groups about Bubbles’ availability — and poof — a connection with a potential match came along.
Needing to see if there was chemistry, I arranged to take Bubbles, along with my two younger daughters, to go on a preliminary visit with the family, consisting of mom, dad, aunt and 5 year old autistic son, Sammy (although Dad wasn’t able to be at initial meeting). The family lived 1/2 hour away and just a few yards from the shores of Lake Erie!
Off we went on Labor Day. Now, I can read a lot about Bubbles by her toileting habits.
Loose stools = stress (not that there’s anything wrong with that)
Diarrhea = really seriously stressed (or she’s gotten into something that upsets her tummy)
For Bubbles, who really has a sporty dog strong constitution, 98% of the time with her, loose bowel movements or diarrhea is a manifestation of stress. To the unpracticed eye, her outward dog behavior remains pretty consistent whether stressed or not — which is to say mostly charming. Upon arriving and entering the securely fenced in backyard (where Sammy likes to be regardless of weather conditions!), Bubbles had an immediate loose poop. “Aha!”, I thought, “She knows something’s up.”
Sammy’s initial reaction to her presence was to scream and clamber on his mother in what appeared to be a terror look in his eye. In short order, both mom and I agreed since he’d had no negative experiences with dogs, and really just very limited experience altogether to canines, the reaction wasn’t about the dog, but the novelty and incongruity — A DOG IN HIS SPACE!
For the next hour, while giving mom instruction (including ignoring her son), and talking and observing, Bubbles went through a thick bully stick I held in my hand, another sign of stress, but Sammy worked himself closer and closer to eventually touching her, albeit gingerly, 3 times.
The hour I alloted passed quickly, and the girls, dog and I left. Upon returning home, two errands later and 45 minutes later, Bubbles hopped out of the car and had an explosive bout of diarrhea, after which she trotted comfortably in the house and was her usual jovial golden self. “Aha,” I thought again. “She KNOWS something’s up!”.
The next day Sammy’s mom let me know that Sammy had spoken several times over the evening of Bubbles’ visit and according to his aunt, initiated contact with Sophie. Mom wrote, “This is a first that time I’m aware of that Sam actually approached and interacted with a person appropriately he has never met before without prompting.” This was pretty big!
A week away (delivering my daughter Callie to Idyllwild School for the Arts and having some dog fun in L.A.) gave the family time to think and taking a leap, we entered into an agreement to place Bubbles in the family as an autism service dog in training for Sammy.
Placement was on Wednesday, September 21. The session was extraordinary. This new pairing marked the completion of the Bubbles living in my world. Happy New Year!PART TWO.