Chapter 2: Lucy, the Journey of a Service Dog for Autism

The family arrived with Lucy tonight. The whole gang came husband, sons and even a girlfriend. I’m sure they needed closure, making sure I would be a kind trainer for her and to see where she would be living. I have the Puppy Raiser Mom let her go to explore the house while we sit and I gather information from them. I go over a list of places and people to see what they have exposed her to. I ask about her commands so that I can speak to Lucy with the words they have used for eight months. What hand signals did they use for “sit”, “down” and “come” to one of them? How did they play with Lucy? What did they feed her and how much? I have a great backyard, fenced, where she can intertwine with nature and explore, as dogs do. I show them her sleeping arrangements, crated in my bedroom with the humans and the other dogs. She will not be isolated from us unless I have places to go where she really shouldn’t go, such as my dog training lessons. Then she will be created and learn to be separate from me as well as learning to be quiet and patient.

Next, we have to introduce Lucy to my two dogs. They are both over ten years old and really don’t like to play anymore. I bring out Noble first on a leash while Lucy’s mom holds her leash. We let Lucy wander and sniff and then have Noble follow. When Lucy wants to sniff him, I feed him treats and then it is his turn to sniff her. I watch for both dogs to be relaxed and not so curious about each other. I then hand off Noble to a family member to bring Scout out. Scout is almost completely blind and has a hard time with bumping into things and being less tolerant of active dogs. I let him sniff Lucy while we feed her treats. Then the roles reverse with me feeding Scout as Lucy sniffs. The meet and greet goes well and I will continue to manage my dogs with leashes until Lucy is calm.

The family is ready to relinquish Lucy to my care but tears are beginning to appear in the Moms eyes. She has devoted so much to Lucy and she is experiencing the loss as if a child is going off to college. I feel the pain she has as she quickly departs, trying not to look back. I hold Lucy’s leash feeling her pull to go with her family. I let her watch as they load into their car, then I slowly close the door and begin her new chapter as a service dog in training.