Katelyn is my 8 year old daughter with Autism. She is considered nonverbal as she has limited functional speech.
She loves to run off on us while walking in the neighborhood, playing in the park etc. Katelyn is very anxious and uncomfortable in large stores like Walmart and Zehrs. In the smaller stores she just likes to run around the shelves. I applied for a service dog in December 2011. The wait was long but I learned a lot in that time. I attended all of the waitlist workshops. At the last workshop we attended, Katelyn played closely with one dog in particular. She was a Golden Retriever named Dani. At most of these events Katelyn kept to herself. Never really connecting to any particular dog so when she actually curled up and cuddled with Dani I was thrilled. Later that day I received an email stating that Dani looked like a good fit and would we like to meet her again? This was incredible news. The next few weeks went even slower than the original wait. During that time I met with Dani and an ADS trainer for a few training sessions to see how Dani and I worked together. These were very easy sessions and by the second one I felt very confident that I could work with Dani and she was accepting me as her handler.
The next step was to have Dani for a visit. Wade and Doug came to the house with Dani and after chatting about care and answering any of my questions they left Dani to get know us all a little better. Katelyn appeared happy with Dani in her home. She didn’t touch her at first, just watched her and then went about her routine. We spent a lot of time that weekend playing outside with Dani, brushing her and Katelyn giving her lots of treats. By the end of her 5 day visit, Katelyn was warming up to Dani. She quickly got used to holding the handle while walking. Her smile while holding the handle was the best part. A couple of weeks later Dani came to live with us full time. Since then she has become a very important part of our family. She walks Katelyn to the bus every morning. Katelyn feeds her all of her meals and gives the command to eat. Katelyn no longer needs to ride in a shopping cart while shopping. She wears her belt and stays close to Dani. If she is nervous or anxious she simply rubs Dani’s ear to calm her down. Socially it has helped Katelyn to interact with her peers. When they ask to pet Dani she proudly says yes and then shows them how. Dani has helped the entire family. Katelyn’s sisters feel good having a dog in the house. They love to play with her and are very proud to answer questions about her while we are out and to their friends at school. With Dani attached to Katelyn we can all relax a little more while out in the community. I no longer have to keep Katelyn right at my side. She loves being able to be an 8 year old and be more independent. I have always told people that Katelyn is my little angel. Well now I know that Dani is hers.