I need to make it clear again that Kender’s dog is only an autism service dog. We have never requested any special training regarding blindness from any agency. 4 Paws for Ability does not train dogs for blind people; they train dogs for autistic children. Everything in our contract makes it clear that this dog is not intended to function in any way, shape, or form as a guide dog. Every skill that our dog will be trained in has to do with autism, and nothing this dog is being trained to do is anything that is not done at every other agency we spoke with that trains autism service dogs. The one and only reason we chose to work with 4 Paws for Ability is because they were the only agency willing to do this for a child who is also blind. No other agency would do this, and we never requested any of those agencies to do any training for blindness. Kender’s blindness is not relevant to what the dog will do.
I feel like I’m repeating myself over and over with this, but it keeps coming back again and again. Everybody we talk to seems to have this misconception that there is something special about the dog being trained for Kender, something different from other autism service dogs. No, there isn’t. Please, when you talk about Kender and his dog, remember that it is an autism service dog. It is not a therapy dog. It is not a guide dog or a seeing eye dog. It is not trained for blindness. It is an autism service dog, nothing else.
On to other things, Kender had a fantastic day at our Foster Homeschool Day on Tuesday. This week was our first week back after the holiday break, with a whole new roster of classes. Kender decided to fill in with a whole new roster of habits and skills! First, he decided that he was going to go potty all by himself. That means he managed to disappear from the busy community room even though at least three of us were actively keeping an eye on him. Even though he didn’t actually wander off like he usually would, it was good to catch this on camera while I was making videos for 4 Paws, as it showed how easily Kender gets away from us even when we’re looking for him, and how he doesn’t respond when we call for him.
Kender also got to spend more time with Mink, a former Paws with a Cause dog raised and living with one of our homeschool families. They met each other last year, when Mink was still a puppy in training, and Vicky and I had to sit with Kender and Mink for at least half an hour before Kender would have anything to do with the dog. This time, Kender fed Mink a treat (although I had to force him a bit) and laughed when she licked it off his hand. He also reached out at least once, all on his own, to pet her on the back. His posture was much more open than before, showing a little less fear, and we didn’t have to spend nearly as long for Kender to warm up to her. This, along with some of the other times I’ve recorded Kender with our friends’ dogs recently, makes me feel much better about Kender’s prospects for bonding with his service dog.
Kender also showed much more interaction with the other kids at Foster than he ever has before. Near the end of the day, he latched on to a 4-year-old we know and called him by name, a skill that Kender hardly ever shows, following the other boy around trying to play with him. The other boy was so sweet about trying to help Kender take turns and not ignoring him, and the whole thing was just amazing for those who know Kender well.
I also got a ton of video for the official Match Video, so I’ll be processing that over the next couple of days and getting the final cuts assembled. I still want to get this done and gone by this weekend, if I can!