Special Needs Families: My Son and His Service Dog

Kara Melissa by Kara Melissa Additional Needs

Kara Melissa

Kara Melissa

International school teacher turned stay-at-home mom. World traveller, food maker, writer, quilt maker, dreamer, activist, advocate, and part-time...

When he came to live with us he’d had extensive, ongoing training.

My husband and I attended four days of intensive training with Ewok to learn his commands and have his trainer pass the baton to us.

The update? He’s an awesome dog with impeccable training and he already adores our son.

Once we got Ewok home, it was time to work on reinforcing his bond with Sebastian. This morning when Sebastian got on the bus to go to school, Ewok wanted to go with him.

I think our reinforcements are working!

Each morning Ewok bounds up the stairs to greet Sebastian while he’s still in his bed.

Ewok sleeps in his crate downstairs. Eventually he will sleep in his own dog bed in Sebastian’s room. Sebastian kicks his legs in excitement, loudly vocalizing and smiling, anticipating their reunion.

I move Sebastian from his bed to my lap on the floor, or in a chair, and he gives Ewok a treat. Then Ewok cuddles up next to Sebastian so I can help him pet Ewok.

It’s the best part of a very busy morning in getting ready for school. As I see Sebastian’s face beam from his happiness with his new buddy, a rush of emotions overtake me. My heart is full.

Having a dog in our home is a new experience for our family. And Ewok is not your typical dog.

He’s been trained in specific commands and he will continue to learn more to assist Sebastian.

In addition to his commands, I have him come to Sebastian when he is upset and help Sebastian pet him, which immediately calms him.

Ewok gives him kisses and then lays at his feet, as close to Sebastian’s wheelchair as he can get.

When Ewok arrived, we put him in a down-stay command next to Sebastian during meals and other times so he would get used to being with Sebastian while practicing the command for longer periods of time.

This was to help him know that his place is with Sebastian, but also build his stamina in down-stay so that we can go out to a restaurant or a doctor appointment with Ewok.

Already, Ewok is choosing to lay near Sebastian without being commanded to do so.

To continue with Ewok’s training and retaining the training he’s had, I have taken him out on adventures each morning, such as a ride in the accessible van to the grocery store, farmer’s market shopping, and posting a parcel.

Sebastian has one day a week in which he does therapies instead of school, with part of that time home with me.

This will also allow him the opportunity to go on adventures with Ewok too and reinforce his training.

This past Thursday we took Ewok to the library, on an elevator, and then browsed and checked out some DVDs.

Over the weekend we took him to a busy farmer’s market as a family and on a hike where many other dogs were present.

Ewok has to heel next to myself or my husband, his lead attached to Seb’s chair. He has to ignore dogs, kids riding by on bicycles, and people purchasing food. He’s doing it!

As Ewok’s handler, I have to be ‘on’ at all times. I have to make sure he’s following commands and not paying attention to people, noises, dogs, or traffic.

I’m definitely more tired by the end of the day than I thought I’d be! But we get to have fun too. I toss the ball to Ewok in the back garden, while Sebastian watches from the porch.

We have to make sure he doesn’t get excited around Sebastian but we also have to make sure Ewok gets the exercise he needs and the down time from working.

When we are out, he has his vest on and he is working; sometimes that could be hours. When we get home, he usually takes a big nap!

Sebastian’s sister has loved seeing how Ewok has connected with Sebastian, ‘oh that’s so cute,’ I hear her saying when Ewok is giving him kisses or sitting next to him. She also struggled at first, ‘I bet Sebastian loves petting Ewok; he looks so soft.’

She has taken on the task of filling Ewok’s water bowls and loves helping with the ‘pooper scooper,’ a contraption that has a long enough handle so Seb can help too. We help Sebastian fill up Ewok’s food dish and he gives him plenty of treats.

I know that she will help others understand that Ewok is a working dog while we are out and I imagine her helping Sebastian tell other’s about him too.

So far, that’s been my job while his sister spends most of her time trying to ignore Ewok. She understands that he needs to bond with Sebastian. And as she sees it happening, it get’s easier to do.

Ewok has toys and bones that he has moved from his crate downstairs, to his dog bed in Sebastian’s room.

After Sebastian left for school today and we went upstairs, he went in to Seb’s room and to his bed to look for him.

Watching him attach to Sebastian is an amazing feeling. And it’s just going to keep getting better.


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