Some dogs change everything. Today’s story is about one of those dogs and the boy who loves him.
About one in 88 U.S. children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Autism can cause language delays, problems with social and communication skills and behavioral obstacles.
My son Jacob is diagnosed with Autism.
We always knew our lives were going to be different, and yet through all the struggles it has always been a change for the better.
We do all that we can to give Jacob the best life possible. We spend countless hours and dollars on treatments, therapies and technologies to provide any assistance available.
One of these key treatments is the existence of a dog in the home.
Studies have shown that dogs have been proven to be an asset for autistic children and their families.
Dogs can provide an increased social outlet for children who are often secluded by others because of their behavior or lack of social interaction.
Dogs also give the child the ability to learn how to play games like fetch and chase. Dogs help children learn to share and provide unspoken companionship, plus a sense of growing responsibility through scheduled feedings, walking, exercise and grooming. Dogs also can provide an overall calming effect.
Of course, introducing a dog into the home is a major adjustment in itself. In any family, a new pet can completely disrupt the family dynamic and routine.
We thought of many reasons why getting a dog is not a good idea – work schedules, how we would make sure the furniture was ok, who would take care of the dog when we traveled on trips. We also wondered about allergies and where the dog would stay and sleep. And we wondered what could happen to Jacob someday when a pet got sick or passed away.
But in the end, we decided we should get a dog.
We would visit the humane society and different family and friends with dogs. We even had a service dog come to the house for one afternoon.
Every time Jacob was enamored with the dog. Boy and animal seemed to connect beyond words or our understanding.
They played together without words or the need for eye contact. There was something that was an “unexplained positive.” Jacob would love to play tug-o-war, throw the ball and watch the dogs fetch.
He would even get down on all fours to watch them chew their food and even mimic the chewing action.
One random day we were introduced to Pongo.
The 14-month-old black labradoodle came to us from a family who lived in an apartment that was too small for Pongo’s needs.
They only had him two months before they realized they needed to find a different home. We met in a park and were going to take Pongo home for a trial period.
That trial period ended the moment we got home and the boy and child played.
Jacob and Pongo were instantly and famously friends.
Pongo doesn’t yet play tug-o-war like Jacob wants him to, but he does play fetch and chase really well. Jacob will keep Pongo out of his room during computer time but will always come out to check on Pongo and make sure he is ok.
Almost every morning, Jacob wakes up saying, “Where’s Pongo?”
Pongo is very patient with Jacob when he “plays too hard” and never jumps up at him. He also knows when play time is over. We are working on Jacob’s chore responsibilities, and that has opened another learning method opportunity.
Communication – in the form of petting, playing and commands – nurturing, interacting, responsibility, calming and true companionship are all things experiences with Pongo. Having a dog is helping my son to be more human.
It’s still amazing how things like this just fall into place outside of our control.
Pongo was the right dog at the right time.
With him, all of the reasons we were thinking of why not to get a dog instantly dissolved.
Pongo is loved by all members of the family, not just Jacob, and although he only moved in two months ago it feels like he has been a member of the family for quite a while.