by Laura Sylvester
I first met Kyle at his family’s home during a scheduled “puppy visit.” This is when our trainers bring a GoodDog! Puppy-in-training for a little play date with his future kiddo companion. It went a little rough, as Kyle was frightened of his soon to be service dog, Leo. He would retreat to the top of his play structure in the back yard for safety, so Leo couldn't get too close. But from afar, Kyle was always watching Leo with a cautionary interest. This scenario might lead one to wonder how a bond would ever happen here. The answer lies in fast-forwarding to current day, as I’ve just heard from Kyle's parents, Kevin and Rachel. It’s so exciting to hear how Kyle and Leo's relationship is blossoming!
Here is the short story Kevin told me that I am so eager to share...
Living in Sacramento, their family frequently walks the riverbanks near their home. One day, a boy unknown to them approached and asked if he could pet Leo. They said, "Yes, of course.” After all, this was one of the reasons they got Leo for Kyle… so Leo could serve as a social bridge to help Kyle connect with others. The boy proceeded to pet Leo and quickly noticed that Kyle did not speak, so he inquired about that as well. Kyle's parents explained Kyle's autism and the boy took in the information lovingly. They thought the encounter was over when the boy said good-bye and walked down the path. It was then that Kyle dropped Leo's leash, ran down the path after the boy, tapped him on the shoulder, and WAVED HELLO! Kyle had never done anything like this before. He had never approached another child, he had never waved to another child, he had only watched other kids from afar with cautionary interest…until this day.
As I reflect in this moment, I am celebrating Leo, Kevin and Rachel! They have become a powerful team to help Kyle reach out and enjoy the love the rest of the world has to offer him. I am in awe of this boy and how far he has come in four months. So here's to Kyle and Leo, may your friendship continue to inspire us and teach the rest of the world more about love, acceptance and true companionship!!