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Tuesday, April 12, 2011


We all know about service animals. The most commonly known is the seeing eye dog. These remarkable animals are trained and then utilized by the blind to help them see and get around. But what many don't know is that there are service dogs for many other causes including Autism. They are called therapy animals and are classified under the same service animal label. Now while these dogs don't do the same thing as a seeing eye dog would do, they do have many uses. For example.

The service dog that my daughter has is one that we have had since birth. He is a gorgeous Lab/Dane mix and very gentle and patient with her. Since he grew up with her and knows her very well he was a perfect choice. We really didn't have to do any special training as Savannah did not need help in that manner. He has however provided her with a friend, a companion and anther set of eyes for me. In fact, the dog's name was one of the first words Savannah said; "Shunshine" aka "Sunshine"

Now being a large dog, we were worried that she would eventually become scared of him or he would get to big. In fact the truth is the opposite. Savannah is actually afraid of small dogs I believe as a direct result of her thinking that a dog should be big.

There have been plenty of times when Sunshine would protect Savannah even from her own lack of self protection. He would lead her through the house when she was little and guide her towards me when I called her and she wouldn't respond. The older Savannah gets and the less she needs such attention, Sunshine has maintained his status as the Family Dog and keeps a warm place in our hearts. I know without a doubt that should the need arise, I can call on his instincts, training and love he has for my girls to aid them.

Also, since Savannah has been approved (a simple note from a family doctor stating that Savannah could benefit from a service animal) for a service animal, when ever we rented a place the owners could not refuse our application on the grounds of any 'no pet' clause. Since Sunshine is not listed as pet but her therapy dog.

If your child is suffering from lack of social skills (nothing socializes better than mans best friend) and other known issues associated with Autism, look into getting a animal that would be their alone to love. Start out with a young animal so the pet can grow up with child and include your child in the decision.

Look at each breed of Dog or Cat or the character of what animal your child chooses and get one that has the temperment that your child needs. You would be surprised at how much having a pet to love, to play with and to care for will help your Autistic child to smile. And as we all know, the smile of an Autistic child is worth more than a thousand words.

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