Archive for February, 2012

Getting Tallulah an Autism Service Dog

We are getting Tallulah an Autism Service Dog!!! The down payment has been paid and we have met the dog we hope will be hers. This gorgeous, huge, black German Shepherd is Booth. He is 10 months in these pictures and will weigh about 30 pounds more before he is fully grown. Az Goldens can’t guarantee we will get Booth until the placement has been made, it’s a matter of when he is ready in his training and when we finish fundraising. He is from a litter of 6, so hopefuly Lu could be matched with a sibling if we can’t get Booth. (But I really hope we get him!) It’s hard to express the sense of calm reassurance, security and strength that I felt when he was in our home working with Lu. Even Stew was won over in moments and finally admitted that maybe there is a dog who could make enough of a difference in Lu’s life to be worth the extraordinary price.

I want to explain a little more of the thinking behind this decision with the dog. I’ve debated for several days whether or not to open up about this. It is quite personal but I find that since Lu’s diagnosis the more I can be open and honest about my fears and feelings, the better we are able to connect with others, get the help for the girls that they need and find the support that has helped get us through this all. So here goes:

A lot of people who know me probably don’t know that I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. It’s not something I talk about much. It affected me greatly at the time, both the abuse itself and the psychological trauma of going through three years of trail to put my abuser in jail, but at this point it all just seems so far in the past. At least it did until I had children of my own. Two beautiful and extremely vulnerable little girls. As they approach the age when my own abuse began, (Lu turns 5 in May) I can feel the tremblings of an old anxiety stir within me. I was a typically developing child– not to say I don’t have a few autism-ish quirks of my own which Stew happily points out to me from time to time, but fully capable of speech both physically and cognitively. Yet for years I felt powerless to alter the terrible situation I was in. When my few feeble attempts to get help were misunderstood I descended into silence. Lu with her limited communication ability would not have even that smallest of choices- whether or not to attempt to get help if someone hurt her. According to current statistics (http://nctsn.org/nctsn_assets/pdfs/caring/ChildSexualAbuseFactSheet.pdf) sexual abuse now affects 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys. When developmental disabilities and communication delays are thrown into the mix that number doubles. (http://www.atvp.org/Material/Brochures/PDF_Brochures/SA_-_SA_in_the_Disabled_Community.pdf). Particularly for the non-verbal who are physically and cognitively incapable of understanding and explaining what happened and positively identifying their abusers. And even more so for disabled people who require assistance in the bathroom.

The chance of Tallulah being abused at some point in her life is so statistically high that I just can’t sit back and do nothing to try to mitigate it. At the moment I do my best to be with her or near her for as close to every minute of the day as I possibly can. We personally select and vet every person who works with her. When she goes to school she is accompanied by a one-on-one aide hand selected by me and trained by our BCBA so that she is always with someone we know and trust. But I know that I cannot always rely on my own physical presence to keep her safe. Most parents think that they are keeping their children safe. I know better than most the ways predators can insert themselves into children’s lives so that parents will not suspect. And I’m also terrified of the random stranger who could snatch her one day when she does finally manage to really and truly escape from me or another caregiver even just enough to get out of sight for a moment– something that would be so horrible and possibly fatal given all of her medical complexities.

This is one of the main reasons I want to buy her a Wonder Dog (here is a great NYTimes article on service dogs titled Wonder Dog: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/05/magazine/wonder-dog.html?_r=1&hp). I want a dog who’s attention is always on her, who can protect her and alert responsible adults whenever she might be in danger. I want a dog who will stick right by her side no matter what happens, through natural disasters or car crash or if something happened to me and I was rendered unconscious or even killed while we were out in public together. I want a dog who can be trained to a ‘safe list’ of people who are allowed to take Lu’s hand and lead her somewhere and who will let no one off of that list take her anywhere. I want this anchor, this measure of security, this creature who’s entire world completely revolves around Tallulah, to whom her wellbeing means everything. I want this for her safety and I want this for my sanity. Just the physical presence of this huge, lovely, potentially ferocious dog will tell any evil doers, this child is protected. Don’t even think about it.

There are a lot of other benefits that come with the service dog and I want all of those for her as well. But the safety aspect is what sold me.

Several people have questioned the very high cost of buying this dog and couldn’t we find one that is less expensive for her. I have looked around, but for this level of training the answer is no. The dogs from Arizona Goldens are all given the same basic training and then get individual specialized training depending on whether they will become seeing eye dogs, wheelchair assistance dogs or autism service dogs. They are all elite. The best of the best. Like the Navy Seals of trained dogs. Which is exactly what I want for Lu. This is why we have committed to spending $15,000 for a dog that will be with her for the next 10-12 years or so, and over $3,000 for the boot camp where they train us and the people who work with her how to become handlers for the dog. However our own personal finances are already so overstretched from 2 years of Autism and EE related medical and therapy costs that we really have no choice but to turn to family, friends and the kindness of strangers to help fundraise for this cause. If you are interested in helping us get an Autism Service Dog for Tallulah, please donate here:

HERE.

All donations over $25 will receive a thank you gift CD from us which will be ready in March (for the 555 fans among you it has a song from the 30(!) bands Stew has played in during the past 2 decades. A selection of his personal favorites and many unearthed exclusive and never-before-released songs!).
More info and track listing here: http://milkandalcoholrecords.com/stewart-retrospective-cd

All moneys from the sales of our music both physical and digital will also go towards the dog. This includes all 555, Red Square and Milk and Alcohol releases on iTunes and those located on our band camp sites:

http://boyracer.bandcamp.com/
http://555recs.bandcamp.com/
http://milkandalcohol.bandcamp.com/

For physical mailorder: http://indiepages.com/boyracer/mailorder.html

Last but not least, I have just reopened my etsy store at www.babyracer.etsy.com and am attempting to upcycle all of the coolest clothes my kids have grown out of to raise money for the dog as well. I have really missed being crafty during the last couple of years and now I’m getting crafty for a cause. And I’m trying to use up every bit of craft raw material I have in the house so I don’t have to buy anything new to make the inventory for the store. All upcycled items have been thoroughly laundered and I am only using the clothes that are still in great shape. Some of their nicer dresses have only been worn once or twice on a special occasion before they grew out of them so a lot are pretty much like new!

Please buy or donate what you can. Every dollar helps and we so appreciate the support.