Our Support Dog journey started back in April 2018, after we had observed the benefits an assistance dog can bring to an autistic child’s life. We completed an application and had an initial phone interview, and were then invited to an introduction day in Sheffield. This was followed by a couple of separate individual interviews.
Once we were accepted past this stage, two specialist instructors from Support Dogs came to our house for the day where they could observe and assess Franklin with a dog. He met two labradors to see how he interacted with each of them. They were two very different mannered dogs (one very playful, the other calmer), the aim being to establish which would make a better match with Franklin. They also assessed our house and garden for suitability (e.g. where would the dog sleep, enclosed and secure garden, enough space etc etc).
The next stage of the process was two full days of training for myself (as the Main Handler) in Sheffield at their training centre. This was with a variety of dogs in a variety of situations (park, shopping centre, shops, busy town etc) to see if I could build relationships and handle the dogs. Following the success of that we were officially accepted onto the program and placed onto the waiting list for a suitable match.
Christmas 2019 we received the phone call with the amazing news that they have a potential match for Franklin. A yellow lab named Thunda! We were given dates of Monday and Tuesday of this week for our ‘Match Assessment’. This involved one full day of me in Sheffield with Thunda to try and create a bond, to see how he responded to me as his handler, followed by a full day at our home to see how Franklin copes and if Franklin and Thunda are a positive match.
Monday went brilliantly. Thunda is amazing, gorgeous and clever. He is calm and cuddly but he also loves to play. It’s hard not to fall in love with him at first sight.
Franklin was unsettled and unsure when Thunda first arrived yesterday, but he settled extremely quickly and after about 15 mins they were happily playing together and cuddling. The calming effect he had on Franklin was astonishing.
We were given the incredible news yesterday afternoon when the instructors informed us they think it is going to be a wonderful match, so Thunda has been officially paired with Franklin! As Thunda was leaving Franklin actually stood at the door whimpering! I start my intensive training in Sheffield in a few weeks time and Thunda will move in following that in mid-April!!
We cannot wait for Thunda to join our family. We’re very excited and hopeful he is going to change Franklin’s life and our lives forever 🐕 💙💙