For the past five weeks I have been taking Dublin to meet with a little girl on the autism spectrum. She and Dublin are participating in a study, Animals Assisting Autism, which is examining whether therapy dogs are beneficial to individuals with autism spectrum disorder.
We only have a week left, and the entire experience has been beautiful to watch. Dublin and his new friend have become partners in crime, and he doesn’t even react when she is having a bad day. He cuddles with her on her bed, plays games with her, and lets her lead him around the house and yard. She started out a little tentative around Dublin but now she is comfortable petting his back and head and even feeding him treats from her hand.
Last night we arrived and Dublin walked right in, leading the way up the steps to the family room. He knows the routine! He and Jamie (name changed) got right to work, playing with his toys. She took out his squeaky toy and waved it in front of him before throwing it and asking Dublin to fetch. Then she asked him for his paw and gave him a treat when he performed his trick.
Then we had a special surprise for Jamie. Dublin had learned a new trick for her! I wasn’t sure if he would perform it in a place full of distractions as it’s a brand new trick, but he performed very well. When he rolled over and played dead, Jamie burst into giggles and it was glorious. I’ve never been so proud of Dublin!
Handling a therapy dog really is a life-changing experience and I am so glad we are involved in this study. Sometimes I groan because the appointment is in the middle of the day (especially when I have a busy weekend), but as soon we get there and Dublin gets to work I forget about any stress.