by Good Dog! Cade and Charlie's Mom Amanda
We’ve had our Good Dog! Charlie home with us for exactly three weeks today. She has adjusted amazingly and each day I feel such gratitude for what the entire Good Dog! team has does for our family. These dogs are incredible and to see the genuine life changing presence Charlie has brought in to our home makes me want to share our unique experience. The first week home we dove head first into activities, which helped with my confidence as her benevolent leader. The first two weeks we went on lots of grocery shopping, movies, and even church outings. But we hadn’t taken her out for an entire “working” day until this past Friday.
Charlie’s boy, Cade—who is 11 years old, has several co-morbid diagnosis's in addition to autism. This means we have an overwhelming amount of specialists and we spend typically one day every 4-6 weeks at Duke Children’s Center in Durham, NC, which is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from us. It’s A LOT when you do it in one day. Drive there, sit in multiple appointments and then drive home. On Friday, Cade had three appointments and we left the house at 5 am. We did not get home until 8:30 pm. It was a long day to say the least. What I really want to share is what an incredible experience and day it was having Charlie with us. She was a calming presence during each appointment and blood draw (he ended up having two before the day was over)... she provided Cade with the sensory breaks he needed and the hugs and kisses to make him reassured and loved. Honestly, who wouldn't love taking their best friend to their doctor appointments with them?!? There were some tears by the end of the day because Cade was just tired and Charlie being next to him in the car made the experience much better and slightly less dramatic. She did incredible at both lunch and dinner and went in under the tables before I even had to ask her. She's anticipating my "leave it" commands before I say them too!!
We were talking as we ate our dinner about how perfectly Charlie just went with the flow of the day. Not once did she question or hesitate - the doctors and nurses were so supportive and kind and commented on how well behaved she was. There is just something so calming about having her present in the exam rooms with us. The waiting rooms were littered with kids but she kept her focus on Cade and I and would only break her focus if we gave her permission to say hello to someone. Charlie is all business when her vest goes on. It’s incredible to see how well she can differentiate between “working” and being the family dog.
It's really hard to imagine how we survived without her after seeing what an incredible impact she's had on Cade and our entire family. She is like the missing puzzle piece to our family. We have been truly blessed and life with a Good Dog! makes Autism life much brighter. If I’m being truly honest, I had a lot of fear about whether or not having her and taking her places would feel like a burden or make me more of a stress case then I already am. Would it be like having another child or just one more thing to care for? But it hasn’t made me more stressed at all, in fact, it has given me a peace and calm that I’ve not had for awhile in this autism life. She has lifted many of the burdens I’ve felt and her presence is something our entire family is grateful for. I wish that all autism families could experience the joy and comfort a Good Dog! can bring.