My name is Brittney and I have been a volunteer with Big Dogs Huge Paws for over a year now. Our journey with BDHP began with our search for a new addition to our family. This is a big decision for any family, but ours was a little more involved. I have 2 children. My son, Keith, who is 4 years old is the greatest kid you will ever meet. He is a big boy and very athletic. He is also very sweet. One of the kindness hearts you will ever meet. Keith is also autistic. He doesn't talk. He is compulsive. He makes high pitched noises and interacts with his surroundings very differently than the "norm".
When we decided to add a member to our family we did a lot of research, and decided on the Saint Bernard. We went to a reputable breeder and got a female who we named "Hera". About a year later, we decided Hera needed a friend. We didn't want to go to a breeder. There are to many dogs in need, and we didn't want to contribute to that. How would we find a rescue dog that could deal with an autistic child though??? Our search brought us to Big Dogs Huge Paws! From the beginning we had our eye on a gorgeous 1 year old male saint named Goliath. We kept our minds open though, knowing that not just any dog could fit into our family situation. After going through the process and getting educated we finally met Goliath. It was love at first sight. We have had him in our home for over a year now, and we couldn't imagine life without him. He is big, goofy, confused, protective, and most importantly completely devoted to Keith.
How do these big furry giants know when someone really needs them? I don't have the answer for that. They just do. I have been a foster for BDHP for a year now, and every foster that I have had,regardless of behavior problems, has been devoted to Keith.
Is every giant breed dog the best fit for a family with an autistic child...no. Is it impossible to rescue a dog in need when dealing with your own need at home....NO!!! Keep your mind and heart open, and the right fit will find you.
What to stay away from when looking for a new addition when you have a child with special needs:
1. Previous abuse from children
2. Bigger medical or behavior issues than your family can take on
3. Timid behaviors
4. Anything that your family has seconds thoughts about....trust your instincts...if they say it's not a good fit, listen!
Now what to look for in your new addition:
1. Personality! Enjoy it!
2. Size. It can make a big difference!
3. The small things. Do they mind to being petted? Do they love to snuggle? Do they love to play with toys? Taking treats gently? Don't mind loud noises? The smallest thing can make a big difference! You know your family and child best. Listen to your heart!
The best thing we have done is bringing Zeus and Keith together. A boy who needed extra love and a dog who just wanted someone to love him.
Autism is a very scary and new thing that parents are having to deal with. Visit www.autismspeaks.comfor more info. What my family knows now though, is that with every set back from autism, we get some new experience that we wouldn't miss for the world!
This is Dude, one of our fosters who adored Keith and kept watch over him when he napped!