Today is Electra’s birthday.
Today is a sad day for us because we are not celebrating with her!
We are hoping it is happy day for her – Happy 3rd Birthday!
Many of you have followed our story about our Service Dog, we just wanted to share the final chapter.
Electra came to us at the end of July last year to work with our daughter with Autism. She added a lot to our lives. She is a smart dog with a rambunctious personality. She loves and needs to be around people, she loves her food, she loves routine, and she loves her job! That being said, she may not have loved our home as she needed to. We had a tough time establishing the right bond between her and Kyra. We are a very busy household and we have a continuous flow of people in and out of our house. Kyra is very impulsive; this made Electra very anxious - especially the unpredictable nature her squeals, screams and inconsistencies! So after a year of trying to make it work, we had to make the call. We really were concerned that our home was not the right setting for this beautiful dog, and as such, we decided that Electra might be better suited for a family that could share in her love the way that she needed.
We had a whirlwind of a year of inducting Electra into our family, into Kyra’s life, training aides as handlers, and creating acceptance for her from Molly, our family pet. Most of all, we were trying to create a bond and security for both Electra and Kyra and help them find a way to benefit from each other. Last week, we had the trainers from BC Guide Dog Services/Autism Support Dogs come back to observe some of the behaviours we were having (both with Electra and Kyra). We had some concerns for a while and needed some support on the best ways to manage Electra, and have her continue to support Kyra and maximize her potential as a guide dog. It was unanimous when the trainer visited that Electra may not have been the best fit for our home. Though she was loved and brought many happy moments, we all agreed that she might be better suited for another child. Sadly, we watched her leave with the trainer on Tuesday.
Without one ounce of regret for the experience, I do feel this was the right choice for our family and for Electra. I don’t like to give in easily, but in the right setting, I am sure Electra will do much better. We are hoping to have another service dog that may be better suited for our home in the near future. We really did have an awesome year with her; Electra often brought out the best in Kyra, especially in public places. Her presence bridged a gap for Kyra and created a greater acceptance and tolerance for some of her odd behaviours. We loved her, and the experience and friendship she gave our little girl. Electra really is a wonderful companion with a gentle soul. We know there is a long waiting list for special dogs like Electra, so we all agreed it was best to give her an opportunity where she can work her magic without stress.
People often asked, why the dog for Autism? How does it help? The Association says the Autism Support Dog program is designed to improve the quality of life of families with autistic children. It is based on the principle of providing a fully trained dog to the parents and the autistic child along with the correct training and support to ensure that the dog works to the maximum of its abilities. Some of the benefits that can be experienced are:
1. Increase safety for the child
2. Control the child by commanding the dog
3. Passively teaches the child responsibility
4. Under the B.C. Guide Animal Act Autism Support Dogs enjoy the right of full public access
5. Positive changes in behavior, lowers aggression/frustration levels with the child
6. Comforts when upset
7. Meet the needs of parents for a degree of predictability in social settings for the child and themselves.
In our experience, Electra was way more than that! We had many memorable experiences that speak directly to the value of a service dog.
Kyra was less likely to wander or run away in public places. She was far more regulated and less anxious when tethered to the dog. Electra helped teach Kyra to be gentle and gave her a greater chance in society with reduced judgement and greater acceptance and toleration of others. Kyra learned to care for Electra, feed her, she took responsibility to make sure she had water, and would join either me or her aides to take Electra for a good run daily. She also became more aware and learned to keep the doors closed and protect her from running, or would communicate (in a non-verbal way) when Electra needed something. With pride, Kyra took Electra into many public areas, without any issue of access. Electra went to restaurants, grocery stores, shopping malls, markets, zoos, hotels, hockey games, swimming pools, birthday parties, on vacation and to school. She was most effective in helping regulate Kyra on an airplane; having Electra with us totally reduced the flying anxiety that Kyra experienced in the past. There were so many positive changes in Kyra’s behaviour, but most valuable was the sense of pride that Kyra had when she walked with Electra. She happily signed to people to pet her dog and tried to verbalize her name and strike up conversations with people about her dog. With Electra, we had some wonderful family outings and experiences where we were able to appreciate our daughter more and enjoy the moments without social judgement (because of Kyra’s behaviours) and with peacefulness because Kyra was much more calm and present in most environments.
With a greater understanding of our situation, the Association recognizes the type of dog that would be most suited in our home. As a result, we are back on the waiting list. It could take a while, but we look forward to having another service dog one day soon.
We love Electra and wish her great happiness in her new home. In the meantime, we have our 8 year old golden doodle, Molly (who is missing her little friend too)! We look forward to the call from the BC and Alberta Guide Dog Services/Autism Support Dogs to let us know we have a new friend for Kyra.
We realize to breed, train and match a dog with a family the costs are astronomical and we appreciate all the funding and efforts that have gone into the program. We want to help with that and will be sending a donation as a token of our appreciation for working with our family and understanding the challenges that we were having. We especially appreciate their commitment in finding a dog trainer that also has a background in working with children with Autism, so they have a greater understanding when matching these beautiful dogs with the wonderful, yet challenging children. We encourage everyone to source out this charity and make a contribution so others have a chance to experience what a service dog can offer.
Kim Fox - REALTOR®
Century21 Advantage - Red Deer Alberta