My six year old son, Andrew, has Autism Spectrum Disorder. He was lucky enough to be a recipient of an Autism Support Dog sponsored by Variety. The lives of Andrew and I were changed dramatically by the arrival of Toobie, or Prince Toobie as we call him.
From the age of two, Andrew has been a bolter. I am a single parent and there have been many life threatening incidents of him bolting - across parking lots, running near highways and bolting out of alley ways into the middle of the road. The most serious one that I will never forget was when Andrew took off from a playground near a very busy street. I had to chase him for six city blocks in the middle of the road, yelling and shouting at cars and waving my arms so they would see Andrew running in the road.
After exhausting all interventions and resources, our lives became completely restricted. We could only go from the daycare to home or the swimming pool via the car. Everything else I felt unable to risk. As a parent I felt trapped and isolated at home, completely unable to interact within the community.
The arrival of Toobie changed all of this. Within the first week we were able to go to a shopping mall, ride the sky train and bus and visit a supermarket. This was completely unimaginable just weeks before. I felt like I had been let out of prison and the whole community was being opend up to us. My dream as a mother of walking with my son along the beach was finally achieved with Andrew at the age of six.
Like most Autistic children, Andrew had been scared of dogs, but he bonded with Toobie far more quickly than I ever imagined. Within two weeks, Toobie was being requested "on the bed please" as part of his bedtime routine. While travelling in the car, I noticed Andrew touching Toobie's foot. This eventually led to petting and cuddling him as we drove. Andrew is calmer with Toobie around, which means that we can go to the post office, the pharmacy and the ATM, all important errands that were not possible before.
Toobie has also had an incredible impact on the community around us. When I walk Andrew to school he has a beaming smile on his face as he holds Toobie's handle. The other children and parents call out "Hi Andrew, Hi Toobie" as we arrive. Toobie has become quite famous and a very positive social attribute for Andrew. Toobie has also significantly improved Andrew's interactions with other children.
In receiving such a valuable and well trained, special dog, I feel like we have won the lottery. This gift has opened up the community, given us hope for the future and brought fun and laughter into our house.
Thank you so much Variety.
Nicola, Andrew and Toobie
Variety - The Children's Charity 4300 Still Creek Drive Burnaby, British Columbia Canada V5C 6C6 Phone: 604.320.0505 | Fax: 604.320.0535 | Toll-free in BC & Alberta: 310.KIDS (5437) | E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org