The Dog That Changed Everything
For this family struggling to take care of two little boys with autism, Support Dog Roman was the unexpected answer to a prayer
Roman joined our family in the summer of 2016 and our lives have been forever changed. Our story, like many others, includes sadness, fear, helplessness, and uncertainty, but is filled with joy, happiness, love, and hope. We are a mommy, daddy, and two beautiful boys, Sawyer and Ryker. Our boys are very different but share a love of video games, toys, music, being active, animals, and nature. They also both have Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD.
Early on we learned neither Sawyer nor Ryker understood the concept of personal safety and had the tendency to bolt. Bolting or running off happens in an instant with no predictability and can be triggered by anything, for reasons we don't always understand. Struggles with social situations, anxiety, and sensory challenges also impact our day-to-day lives. The boys need one-on-one support outside of our home; if two adults aren't available we can't go out which can be very isolating at times.
The first time we met Autism Support Dog Roman, my son Ryker got upset about something and ran to his room. Without a word, Roman followed and put his head down. Ryker wrapped his arms around Roman's neck for a hug and you could feel Ryker exhale. The following week when Laura, a trainer with BC & Alberta Guide Dogs, called to tell us Roman would join our family, well, it's impossible to describe how that made us feel.
Roman works with both of our boys. We were assigned two very special trainers, Laura and Nic. They didn't just train us how to work with Roman, they did so much more, more than they probably realize. These two simply amazing women had an impact on our whole family in a very positive way.
Graduation for us was three weeks later. What has changed? Everything. I could explain in detail how Roman makes us feel, that all of us have less anxiety, that with Roman I can take the boys out on my own so we aren't isolated anymore, how we've gone places we could never have gone before and done things we didn't think we could do, but instead I'll share words from our family over the past weeks:
"I don't feel sad and angry anymore. How does Roman make it so I'm not sad and angry?"
"Can I go swimming at the dog park today?"
"Roman made it so I could button up a shirt! I never did that before! Can you believe it?!"
"Can I feed Roman his breakfast?"
"How do I hold the bag? And pick it up? It smells. Dog poo is gross, adults should do this only."
"We never went for walks here before!"
"Roman, you're my bestest friend ever."
"We need to clean our toys up so Roman doesn't eat them."
"What adventure are we going on today?"
"Are Laura and Nic going to come to my birthday party?"
"I'm glad Roman keeps me safe because, you know what? I don't know why I run away; I can't help it."
"I love him so much."
"Can we go to Disneyland tomorrow because we have Roman now?"
"I feel like I can breathe for the first time in years."
"I never knew he could change things this much or that I could love a dog this much."
"How is 'thank you' to everybody involved in bringing Roman into our lives ever enough?"
"This is Roman. He's our Autism Support Dog. Me and my brother have autism and he helps make us safe."
"You know what Roman does? He makes my heart happy."
To BC & Alberta Guide Dogs, Autism Support Dog Team #37, thanks and gratitude for bringing Roman into our lives. —Heather
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