A couple of days after Rodeo arrived, Emily asked me what do I like the most about him. I didn’t know what to answer so I just changed the subject. That night, I went to bed wondering how a person who has been scared of dogs all her life, in only three weeks can feel like she had loved Rodeo for years?
Going back in time, I remember when Alejandro was nine months old, and I noticed something unusual with his development. I remember asking many questions to the doctor that always ended with the same answer: “you just have to wait”. But I couldn’t just wait! I needed to know why my baby didn’t want me to hold him, and instead he preferred to be alone in his crib rocking his head from side to side. Then, close to his first birthday, I needed to know why he stopped cooing and was so interested in flapping with his hands everything around him (even hard surfaces).
He had no words, no eye contact, no attempts to walk, but lots of stress around certain places, noises or people.
I got answers when he was formally diagnosed with autism in February 2013. But, while I was waiting for therapy through the CHEO Autism Program, I couldn’t just wait either. I started researching alternative therapies, services and support groups. My search led me to the Lions Foundation of Canada and their amazing service dogs trained to assist people with different disabilities. Reading about their Autism Assistance Dog Program (AAD), and learning from other parents about their experiences; I felt encourage to submit my application on September 2014, as a present for Alejandro’s 3rd birthday.
One year after we received confirmation that our application was approved. Since that day, a dog who was in training to support our child became part of our conversations and plans for the future until last month, when he was finally assigned to Alejandro. Fully covered by the Lions Foundation of Canada, papo traveled to Oakville, Ontario and spent at their facilities ten days in training. We welcomed Rodeo in our home last November 3rd; a beautiful black Labrador Retriever trained to offer safety companion and unconditional love to our son.
Three weeks has passed since Rodeo arrived and I can tell that he already stole Alejandro’s heart. In the mornings he jumps from bed and go straight to the living room looking for Rodeo to play cars. At nights, he includes as part of his bed time routine hugs and kisses for Rodeo, as well as wishing him good night, off course! Rodeo sits patiently and let Alejandro to spoil him without making a sound. I don’t speak canine, but I think this is a good sign of bonding.
I think that now I can answer Emily’s question. What I like the most about Rodeo is the happiness I see in my son’s eyes when they interact with each other. A happiness that makes me forget my own fears and gives me a peaceful feeling that I never experienced before. He makes me feel that I am not alone, just having him around; I already feel he is helping us.
We are all still in an adapting mode, but I see a good start and a bright future! Every laugh and every word that Alejandro had share with Rodeo during these past three weeks reinforce my feelings.
Thanks Rodeo for joining our lives, thanks Lions Foundation of Canada for this great gift and especially thanks for your commitment to enrich the life of people with disabilities and their families. Thanks to all foster families and donors for your generous contributions. You are changing the life of many families like ours, who cannot afford to pay for such a service.
If you are following our journey with Rodeo and feel inspired to support this wonderful cause, please click on this picture and learn how to do it. Dog Guides bring increased safety, independence, mobility and unconditional love and companion to many people across the country. Your contribution will change a life and that does not have a price!