The days, they blur.
This morning, as we will continue to do I think through Thursday, we did obedience first at the training center. What I hadn’t predicted Brooklyn and I actually had worked on today’s skill last night: We braved Target by ourselves and used a shopping cart when picking up a few things.
Friday night, Brooklyn was the anti shopping cart dog. Today, she’s rocking them! Last night she was skittish around a particularly loud one for a few minutes but with some intensely awesome treats (Bil-Jac dog food*) we went onwards without an issue. She maintained a great heel position with little correction and I let people really approach her to prepare her for real life experiences. She struggles sometimes, especially with little girls, but every opportunity we have to work with that scenario we take advantage of it. We even put J in the shopping cart at training today and she acted like she’d never ever been scared.
The second half of this morning was an outdoor track. I mentioned this on the Facebook page but wow. Just wow. Half of children with autism are prone to wandering. This leads them easily into dangerous situations as they move generally towards locations of fixations: water, train tracks, busy roadways or they move heedlessly across dangerous areas like highways and parking lots to reach desired locations. This is just a fact of life we must understand as part of loving J. He will always be at risk for this until the awareness of choosing differently dawns. I have full faith my son will one day life a secure and independent life, and Brooklyn’s nose being available to secure his safety is critical to that.
This dog is a little mother. She dotes on everyone around her and is a perfect example of the beautiful love only an animal can give: unconditional, undemanding and whole-hearted. The moment we started the track she was off. She was determined to find her boy, and quick. She let me determine a speed safe for myself and heeded my handling after I got the hang of it. She got hung up once when the scent trail wavered but quickly found it again, showing every tell-tale sign of having an excellent grasp of the path her boy took. The reward she receives for finding J is her most beloved treats, her most beloved ball and even more so a rain of enthusiastic praise. We really do pretty much throw a ticker tape parade every time, minus the ticker tape.
This afternoon she performed three tracks in a department store. It was incredible. We only have our small five foot leash, so it works slightly differently. We don’t hype her up quick so much but the shift in her demeanor is the same: She goes from tender docile lovebug to boisterous dog on a mission in a split second with her commands! She found J quickly and loved getting her treats even without quite the loud and crazy party she gets outdoors. J is not a fan of practicing this skill but we wouldn’t even be trying it if he hadn’t wandered in the past. He has tried to throw himself into open bodies of water, into pools, into touch tanks at the aquarium, towards roadways to see construction equipment… Now, between the tracking and the tethering, my worrying has diminished by half if not more.
I can explain tethering better later when I can show pictures. This is something not to ever, for anything, be done with a child and a pet dog and never to be done without strict adult supervision. Child and dog can find themselves either hurting themselves or hurting each other if left unsupervised. Brooklyn has spent months learning how things will work with being tethered with someone even stronger than J-Bear. He’s easy by comparison, and he’s always got at least one adult with him as well. This skill prevents him from bolting the moment I might need to attend to something like paying for groceries and gives him independence and security as well. It has the fringe benefit of being fantastic sensory input to him, for every tug fills his need for sensory input. Tug is a favorite game of his to play and she doesn’t even realize they’re playing it, she just walks along like he wasn’t there.
No pictures tonight because I have to confess, I am tired. This is Day 8 of non-stop training and even Brooklyn is wiped. It will be nice to finish the laundry I have going then lay down my head and rest. I wanted to go out to Walmart and practice alone with Brooklyn in a more stimulating environment but it can wait til tomorrow. Walmart will still be there, after all. Maybe we’ll even do an indoor track. 🙂
If you would like to learn more about Autism please check out http://awaare.nationalautismassociation.org/
*= Bil-Jac is a frozen dog food that is… well, I think it’s super gross. You can make little pea sized meatballs for the dogs with it and they go over the MOON for it. It’s called doggie crack for a reason!