What Does it Take to Train an Autism Service Dog?

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Surprise, because we are about to find out!  The last time I wrote about our service dog, I had nothing.  This time, I have HUGE news, and her name is Lolly.  I have only seen one picture, and one short video, but she is the cutest! (That link will take you to Instagram, where I posted it for all to see.)  See our update at the end of this post!

A very nice retired couple from our church (where my kids have gone to preschool) have offered to be our puppy raisers.  I am so thrilled by this as we are so far from the foundation, and its resources.  We get the chance to have R3 and his dog bond from a very early stage!

How did we choose the name Lolly?  Well, it was by default.  He is only 4, and has some communication challenges.  I asked him for a couple of days, and showed him her picture.  At first he said, "Leila."  That won't work as my dad has a little dog by the same name, and we don't want confusion.  Then I got "book," "the Princess and the Frog," "choo-choo," and finally when his sister was eating a lollipop, we got "Lolly."  To be honest, we could have chosen anything, and he wouldn't care, but I loved Lolly, so we ran with it!

Things moved very quickly after that, I chatted with her puppy raising family, and I am so thrilled to say that they sound WONDERFUL.  Very shortly thereafter, Patty (the president of the North Star Foundation) said that Lolly was responding so well, that she could be moved down to us sooner than we were expecting.  Initially it seemed like May/June we would have her in Maryland, then it moved up to mid-April.  Today I found out that she will be arriving on Tuesday!!  EEK!

How did that happen?  My dad.  He is a pilot for American Airlines and was planning on being in Connecticut for Spring Break with my sisters. When he found out, he offered to meet Patty, pick up Lolly, and fly her down to us.  On TUESDAY!

I haven't even told the kids.  We probably won't, but every time the doorbell rings, R3 runs to the door shouting, "Lolly's here!"  I think that it will be the surprise of a lifetime and I think it will be my first foray into Facebook live.  If you aren't already following me on Facebook, you won't want to miss it. 

The training will begin with your basic puppy Kindergarten style classes, but I will begin two hours a week of one on one training with a local trainer very shortly thereafter. Why me?  Until she is trained, and until R3 is capable of handling her, I will be her "primary handler".   I know it will be a lot of work, but I will find the time. If I can do one thing to improve the quality of my son's life and his happiness in the future, you can bet your ass I will do it!  Stay tuned and I will keep you updated on our progress.

If you want to read more about R3 and our journey to the Autism diagnosis, you can read more here.

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Ok, time for a super long, overdue update: 

Lolly is doing very well!  We have graduated from puppy training to basic training, and have had some private sessions with an amazing trainer.  

It is hard for me to remain positive sometimes about the process.  I guess I didn't really realize that I would be doing it ALL on my own.  All the training, all of the maintenance, everything.  Just like all of you, I have a million other things going on.  Frankly, I am learning as much as she is!  I haven't trained a dog like this before, and the foundation just keeps telling me, she's not a souffle!  You aren't going to ruin her!  HA!

Right now she is like a super well trained family dog?  We are doing yet another class right now in preparation for a canine good citizen test.  She is close, her challenges are that she really can't ignore other dogs and kids.  Not such a big deal in the grand scheme (because she is just the sweetest girl), but in order to use good manners in public, she can't greet EVERYONE.  We are working on it.  Wish us luck, and I promise to keep you posted more often.

Also, on the recommendation of our developmental pediatrician, we tried karate.  It has been a huge flop, so we are going to have Ry do an agility class with Lolly this summer.  Dear God, please let this one work!

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