21 Feb Where is the year going?
This week at Smart Pups…..
I attended the second Smart Pups graduation for 2019. Where is the year going?
We are enormously lucky to receive ongoing support from the management and staff of Mooloobah Surf Club, enabling us to celebrate both the achievements of our graduating dogs and of their patient and dedicated fosters.
These mornings are always a lovely opportunity to get together for both fosters and trainers, but importantly they also help us spread the message about our work to the wider community. Members of the public attending the Surf Club are encouraged to come up and meet our dogs and listen as our trainers talk about each dog’s journey from puppy to graduate.
January saw the graduation of Tarzan, Kruz and Ruby. While in February we celebrated for Delta and the pocket size sisters Foxy and Fern. Four of these six dogs received a combination of task training at Maryborough Correctional Centre and in-home training with fosters from both Maryborough and the Sunshine Coast. Increasingly our dogs are raised and trained by a team of staff and volunteers, so the breakfast enables everyone involved to meet each other and share their stories and experiences.
As I write, Tarzan and Kruz are already settled into their new homes, with all the others on their way within the next few weeks. For trainers and fosters this is the end of long and rewarding journey, where bonds can’t help but be formed. For our clients, the children with special needs and their families this point marks the very beginning.
Autism is an invisible disability, so instead of support, families often receive judgement and their children suffer social isolation. Whole families become cut off because venturing out only causes anxiety, meltdowns and embarrassment.
Five of these graduating Smart Pups will be going to boys with autism, who range in age from six to sixteen. Each family share a similar story. One of love, dedication and sacrifice in order to provide the best possible outcome for their boys.
Also invisible is the reality of daily life for these families inside their homes. Families that can often comprise of a single parent, helping a son with all aspects of daily living. Some dealing with the constant worry of a child running away, or others with a child too unsteady to walk far.
And the common theme for all these parents is the pain they feel in seeing their loved one shut off from people around them. Many of the boys our newest graduates will help are non-verbal, all have communication difficulties that lead to feelings of frustration and anxiety.
So, graduation marks the end of our dog’s training phase and the beginning of their working life. Tarzan, Kruz, Ruby, Delta, Foxy and Fern will each use their specialised training to carry out specific tasks to assist their boy, but just as important is the feeling of safety and security their presence will create and the companionship they will provide. The end of isolation and the beginning of a friendship that comes without judgement.