Just before her third birthday, our daughter Kaya was diagnosed with autism. We knew very early on that there was something different about Kaya but no-one could find anything out and tell us what it was. She wasn’t growing on the same scale as other kids her age, and had no speech, plus she was born with other physical difficulties (coloboma, low muscle tone and others). Communication was a great source of frustration for all of us. As Kaya grew, we also found her to have sensory overload when it comes to noises around her which leads her to be scared of cars and runs from them which is especially difficult in busy parking lots.
Outside of her challenges, Kaya is a funny, happy girl, and just loves animals, especially dogs. We have so many in our neighbourhood and when we’re outside and she sees them out for their walks, she always makes them stop for her to pet. She is so happy when she is playing and petting the dogs. After hearing about autism support dogs, we knew that was something we needed to pursue. After doing some research, we knew we had to apply for Kaya.
This past February, we got the phone call we had been waiting for. Dianne became part of our family. While we are all thrilled, Kaya was over the moon. “She’s my best friend” she kept saying, over and over, and still does. She loves playing tug-o-war or hide the bone with her and giving many hugs. Kaya insisted from day one that Dianne would sleep with her, (she was going to anyway) and many nights when we check on her, there she is in Dianne’s bed all snuggled up with her.
The difference we’ve seen in Kaya has been nothing short of amazing. Kaya has been much calmer since Dianne’s arrival, but of course she still has her times where she’s upset or frustrated, and when she’s having a tantrum or meltdown over something, Dianne always comes to Kaya. In many cases, the tantrum stops or at least stops well before it normally would. The times where Dianne doesn’t come fast enough, Kaya has started calling, “Dianne, where are you, come here.” She is so aware of this magical connection. It’s quite incredible really.
Because of Kaya’s low muscle tone, she never liked going for walks. That has all changed with Dianne. Kaya loves taking Dianne for walks and has seen more of our neighbourhood and the dyke system here in Maple Ridge than she ever has before. Kaya is genuinely proud to walk with Dianne.
Another challenge we had with Kaya was going shopping. We avoided it all costs unless absolutely necessary. Kaya had no patience at all and would protest as soon as she arrived at the store. The difference now is again, nothing short of amazing. She walks around the store more patiently with Dianne and listens to her Mom with little to no protesting. She’s happy to stop and hang out with her friend while Mommy browses. We never thought this would be an option for us.
It is so amazing how Kaya who doesn’t express her feelings very often calls out “I am so happy!” “I am so happy I have Dianne” and so we are. There are no words to express our feeling of joy and gratitude to BC/Alberta Guide Dogs for having Dianne in our family. To have the new freedoms we have been given by Dianne is beyond what we thought we would have ever had. We especially want to say a huge thank you as well, to all the puppy sponsors, raisers, boarders and our amazing trainers, Nic and Laura. Their support, patience and love made this wonderful 4-legged miracle happen for our family.