Monday, June 24, 2013

More than Man’s Best Friend: A Guest Post from Jan

As a special treat to my followers who have furry family members, I have a guest post from Jan who after sharing with me her experience with her dog and how she’s helped their children, I asked her to share her story with all of you. Enjoy her guest post and please leave her a message below or share with us if you too have had a similar experience with a family pet, she’s looking forward to your feedback!

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Hi! I am a mother of 2 boys on the spectrum. My husband and I have been together for 20 years now. My kids are ages 10 and 13 years. Each has issues with anxiety, sensory integration dysfunction and possible mood disorder.

My eldest internalizes everything, while my youngest is explosive. Only my youngest has been diagnosed. He went through some difficult years, starting at age 6 and was prescribed Zoloft, for anxiety. After 2 weeks he reacted badly and was hospitalized. His rages had worsened and he threatened to harm us and himself. He asked us to take him to the hospital, so the doctors could help him. His doctor told us he has autism. Then he explained the spectrum and told us that he has Asperger’s. He was prescribed Abilify, while he was weaned from Zoloft, then switched to risperidol. While on the drug, his rages lessened, but he was still very edgy and explosive. After 6 months, while being weaned off of risperidol, he had a bad reaction and was taken off, cold turkey.

Through all of this we received some help we never expected. The year before our son was hospitalized, we had adopted a 10 month old puppy. Her kennel card read, Shepherd Mix. She definitely comes from a long line of mixes! We adopted a dog, because my boys were terrified whenever we were near one, and I wanted them to feel comfortable. I never imagined how much she would help us!

Our youngest was immediately drawn to her. He didn’t like her to be alone in her kennel, so he would sit in there, with her. Both boys took her to training lessons, and walked her daily. They played with her, fed her and groomed her. It didn’t take long to bond!

When my youngest would rage, we would have to restrain him, by sitting over, or behind him, while holding his arms. The dog was always right there, in protective mode. We thought it was because she thought we were harming him. Later, once his rages lessened, it became harder for us to recognize when he might become upset. Our dog still had the same reaction. She would stand over him, or sit on him and bark at us. Sometimes she would nip at us. At the time, they both weighed about 60 pounds. I’m not sure if it was her interrupting him, or her weight on him, or her concern for him, but she always made him feel better.

Now, my youngest does such a good job controlling himself and his emotions, it is hard for us to recognize when he will become upset. Our dog still alerts us. We usually notice as we try to leave the house. She stands over him or sits on him and barks as he tries to put his shoes on. That is when we realize he has a project, test or field trip at school and might rage. It can be anything though. A trip to an amusement park, a family gathering, or even a trip to the grocery store. It is helpful to know we need to take extra measures to help him that day. Sometimes it’s just remembering he might need extra help. It is easy to forget how hard he is working, every day, just to appear “normal”. It’s much nicer to be gently reminded, by our dog, rather than an incident once we are away from home.

Our dog is a huge part of our family. She is the best thing that ever happened to us. She helps our entire family, every day. She helped the boys recognize others’ feelings and empathize. By nurturing her, they gained confidence. She even helped with eye contact. It’s funny, they feel comfortable looking into her eyes, but she doesn’t like that! She lets them know how she is feeling, by body language. They know when she is happy, sad, angry, or afraid. They know they can change how she feels, by feeding, walking or playing with her, even comforting her when there is a thunderstorm.

Thank you Mama Bear for the opportunity to share our experience. I’m interested if others have had similar experiences with a pet.

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Thank you so much for sharing your story Jan. Since my husband and youngest son are allergic to dogs, we aren’t able to experience this, but I can share that whenever my oldest is near his cousin’s dog he perks right up, their dog is a natural mood booster! To this day, my boys talk about the day they grow up and move out and get a dog of their own. I always respond with, “I hope you do.”

Please share with us, we’d love to hear your experience with pets in your life.


  1. Hi Jan This is so great to hear! I have always known tht animals play a crucial role in their unconditional love of humans. I am so glad your dog has helped your children.

  2. Hi Jan,

    We have a cat who is loving with my son. He doesn't always treat her well, holds her when she would rather be down. She tries to tell him with body language, or yowling that she's done, and if that doesn't work, then she will use her claws. But even though this happens all the time she still seeks him out and sleeps with him at night.

    Your dog sounds like a wonderful addition to your family.