Since January, Gus has been working with the most amazing dog trainers, Etai and Yariv from the Centre for Service and Therapy Dogs Australia (CSTDA). They run a special therapy program for people with autism. They have been working with Gus to assess if a therapy dog would enhance his quality of life ... and the answer from everyone is 'yes!'
We already have a lovely dog - Heidi a miniature schnauzer. Gus is very dependent on her. She reluctantly helps with all his daily transitions: getting up, getting dressed, even brushing his teeth. If Gus is getting agitated, angry or anxious - which happens several times throughout each day - being with Heidi really helps to calm him down. Heidi is amazingly tolerant, but hasn't been trained to assist. We worry for her as she is just too small and Gus can be unknowingly rough with her. The trainers at CSTDA assessed Gus and Heidi and concluded very quickly that she is too small boned to meet Gus’s needs.
Since meeting Yariv and Etai, Gus has been working with English labradors and their size and character are much more suitable. Gus has always craved deep pressure, so hugging a labrador or having one lie on him will help to keep him balanced and calm. Heidi is too small to provide deep pressure and she does not have the ability to sense when Gus needs it. Gus is now 11 and we believe that having a dog best friend to accompany him wherever he wants to go will help give Gus independence and confidence as he hits the teen years. A dog will also act as an icebreaker, helping him to grow his social circle.
Gus is working with the trainers so that he can take a dog with him wherever he goes. So far he has trained with dogs on trams, trains, buses and even riding a bike!
Etai and Juriv are now trying Gus out with some puppies - labradors who are about 6 months old - to work out the best character fit for him. The puppy will live with a foster family for the first 12 months and will be trained by the trainers and Gus. When the dog is between 12-18 months old, it will come and live with us for some intensive bonding with Gus. Gus will continue to work with Etai and Juriv to fully train the dog and ensure that the handover is smooth. The whole program takes between 2-3 years.
It has been incredible to see Gus's confidence grow with each weekly training session. He has learnt how to handle a dog properly and takes pride in his growing knowledge about dogs.
We are not in a position to fully fund the dog therapy for Gus ourselves, so we are asking for help to hit the $35,000 target. It might sound like a lot for a dog, but for the money, Gus will have a pure bred, fully trained, beautifully cared for dog. The trainers will work with Gus, not only on dog handling, but also social independence. We believe, for Gus the benefits will be priceless.
Etai and Yariv and the team at CSTDA http://www.cstda.com.au/ go above and beyond for Gus - taking the 4 hour round trip to visit Gus every fortnight for no charge! Believe me, in the world of special needs therapy, it is unheard of to not charge travel. They are caring and incredibly passionate about what they do. Their organisation is not-for-profit and they run specialist programs for individuals with autism, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and PTSD along with group programs for at risk and underprivileged kids. You can read more about their story on the website linked to this post.
If you want to know more about the program and the benefits for Gus let me know - I am always happy to provide more information.
Thanks for reading ... it means so much to share our story with you.
- Eve Murphy
- Cath Mackie
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