Lynn is a Limerick mother of two sons on the Autism spectrum. Three years ago, she welcomed an autism assistance dog into her family. This is her story.
“I have two sons with Autism, Ben who is the eldest, was what we called a ‘bolter’. He would see something that caught his interest and be gone in a second.
“It didn’t matter where we were and we had a number of near misses when he could easily have been knocked down.
“Shopping centers were a nightmare as he was too big to go in a trolley but he continuously wandered off if I only stopped to pay in a shop.
“We applied for an assistants dog in the hope that it would keep him safe and allow us to go out more as a family.
“We had come to the stage where it was easier to stay home than to risk going out and the stress it caused us.
“We applied to AADI in 2010 and we were lucky that the list was open at that time.
“My daughter and I helped out with a few collections in shopping centers when they were doing on in the area while we were on the list.
“I had a home visit in 2013 from Nuala who trains the dogs. She came to meet us and Ben and see what our needs were. I asked that day when could we expect to get a dog and was told anytime in the next 12 months.
“I couldn’t really understand why we would be waiting up to another 12 months” Lynn said adding that it was only after she realised that AADI had to see what type of dog would suit their needs.
“In July of 2014 on my birthday I got a call from the AADI office asking if I was still in need of a dog. We were after having a particularly bad week with Ben and everyone was tired of being cooped up in the house while school was out for the summer.
“For that call to come then was the best birthday present ever. I thought about the changes it might make to not only Ben’s life but to the whole family.
“In August we went to Mallow to meet Chester the beautiful chocolate Labrador. We spent three days there being shown by the trainer how to lead Chester when Ben would be attached to him and learned all about feeding, weight, vaccinations and everything we needed to know to make sure Chester was well looked after so he could do the job he had been trained to do.
“We came home after three days and the excitement was unbelievable. Ben was in the garden waiting to meet Chester with the biggest smile I have ever seen on his face.
“We had been expecting Chester to make some changes for Ben but never did we think it would be as good as it turned out to be.
“Suddenly we were able to go to places we never went before, Ben didn’t seem to mind being in crowded supermarkets, his anxieties reduced when he had Chester with him. He answered people when the spoke to him because they were asking about Chester and he was interested in telling them and, above all, Chester kept him safe.
“We had been given a new life and Ben had been given a friend. He also learned about being responsible for Chester with brushing him and feeding him.
“Chester made such a difference to our whole family we really wanted to do something to help the charity in anyway we could since they make no charge for any of their assistance dogs.
“We offered to foster a dog/pup if they needed us to as they rely heavily on people fostering the pups before they go into training.
“We were asked to take a beautiful retriever called Quinney. Quinney arrived snow white six months old with the biggest eyes ever and a problem with car sickness. We loved her and in about two weeks of shot journeys with long walks in between Quinney was able to travel without a problem.
“Quinney had such a lovely temperament that the charity decided they would breed from her and it would be a way of cutting down costs of buying each pup.
“Quinney was moved to a lovely farm but had decided she was a city girl and didn’t settle very well. We live in a small terraced house in the middle of the city and knew nothing at all about breeding pups but we offered to take her back here and give it go.
“Well the story of the pregnancy, labour, birth, panic (from me) 8 pups (from Quinney) is one for another day but we managed it, not only did we manage it we absolutely loved it.
“Both my boys had to get used to different set ups in the house, lots of people calling to see the pups, strict cleaning routine, different smells and sounds and they handled it really well.
“Chester is still king of the house, Quinney is still referred to as “baby girl” I always worried about how the boys would manage with Jobs when they are older. Well I think now it is highly likely they will work with dogs and be very very good at it.
“The difference Chester and the AADI have made to our lives is unbelievable, no words will ever be enough to thank them for the new lives we have. Every family should have the chance that we got.