I have been around dogs all my life. I’ve had dogs, my friends have dogs and, for the last few years I have been around Autism Support Dogs. From my experience dogs are very smart. However, to meet the incredible rigours of what is required from an Autism service dog takes a level of training beyond comprehension. Last month, I received a very small taste of this training as I had the privilege to spend the day with amazing ASD instructors Michelle and Daniela and the puppies under their tutelage.

Michelle is training Rio, Rose, they are from the same litter and are 20 month old yellow labs and Jey , they have been in training since they were 10 month old. Rio will soon be paired with an autistic child. Daniela is instructor for Baily and her sibling Corky who are 14 month old. Baily’s and Corky’s training have just begun, and at the time of writing, this was about 2 weeks. Yet, in that time their progress has been spectacular.

I met Michelle, Rio, Daniela and Baily at Richmond Center. While the trainers played the part of “mom” I played the part of an autistic child. For an hour we wandered through the halls and stores of the mall. We even rode the escalator, up and down. We walked through the busy food court, and The Bay. At times, behaving like a child, I attempted to pull in different directions or run away. Rio would NOT let me run or move away! He was fully focused on his instructor.

We practiced some of the activities a mom, her child and their dog would engage in during a shopping trip. Below are some pictures and video of the event. Michelle and Daniela also demonstrated the amazing communication skills the dogs will need interacting with non-verbal children. I wish that I could describe to you the myriad of detail that ASD are taught for the benefit of children living with autism and their families alas, there is too much to tell. You will need to come to the next Kitz4Kids event (January 19th, 2019), meet these dogs, and see for yourself.

Thank you, Michelle, Rio, Daniela and Corky for a wonderful afternoon. And, thank you for your dedication and service in support of Autism Support Dogs.

Thank you all for your support, besides honoring memory of Andrew, we are part something very meaningful.

Eva Dolejsi