Did you know that there is an entire week devoted to assistance dogs? International Assistance Dog Week is coming up on August 5-11. We’re planning to share lots of great stories and photos with you about service dogs changing lives.
Service dogs bond with their partners, and they often know exactly what their partners need, the way SSD Thunder has bonded with his partner Justin. “Thunder is so in tune with Justin’s emotions. The bond is phenomenal, one I will never understand. His mere presence has a calming effect on Justin,” says Justin’s mom, Laurie.
Justin’s parents decided to apply for a service dog after they saw what a positive effect SSD Scarlet, one of our facility dogs, had on him. During the 2009-2010 school year, Justin had a difficult time, escaping off of school property the first week of school and having violent outbursts. Although the school district did a wonderful job, Justin’s safety and the safety of others was becoming an issue. That January, his parents kept him home until they could find a safe place for him to go to school.
That’s when they found the Capital Area Partial Program (CAPP), a program that provides professional therapeutic services to children and families. Justin’s parents were apprehensive about sending him to CAPP, but they knew he would be safe there. His mom knew they had found a good place for him when she picked him up on his first day of school. Justin came walking out of the building with a huge smile on his face, SSD Scarlet at his side.
As Justin’s parents attended monthly meetings at the school, it became apparent that Scarlet was having a positive effect on him. However, they still worried that Justin would never be able to live a “normal” life. At a loss, they decided to look into getting him a service dog of his own.
And that’s when Justin’s life began to change. They went through the application process – meeting with SSD Gideon and SSD Terra in the initial interview, and going through three therapy visits with SSD November – and in September 2010, they got the call to come to Meet the Dogs.
At Meet the Dogs, Justin had the chance to meet and interact with several dogs in advanced training. But something happened when he met SSD Thunder. “I knew instantly that Justin would be matched with Thunder,” said Laurie. In November, Justin was officially matched with a dog, and at Team Training in February, the dog that trotted over to him was indeed Thunder.
Team Training is exhausting because partners and their families are trying to learn everything they can about working with their new service dog in two and a half weeks. Four days into Team Training, Justin took Thunder home for the first time, and life has never been the same.
“The first night changed our lives, and we never looked back,” said Laurie. “Justin had never slept through the night before, but that first night, he took Thunder to bed, and that was it!”
Justin and Thunder are a perfect match. Thunder always wants to know where Justin is. If Justin is outside playing with the neighbors, Thunder sits in the yard or window and watches, his tail wagging. When Justin is having a good day, Thunder is always ready to play. When he is having a bad day, Thunder is willing to just hang out with him. Justin depends on Thunder when he is upset, always wanting to snuggle with him. “They’re like two peas in a pod,” said Laurie.
“We now know that Justin can take on the world. I have a sense of security. Finally, he is just a boy, not a boy with issues. I don’t even remember what life was like without Thunder. And I don’t want to,” said Laurie. “SSD made our dreams come true, believing in Justin. The love and support we have received is truly a gift I will treasure.”