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When Our Untrained Dog Had the Perfect Response to My Son's Meltdown

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I didn’t want a dog, but my son, Brock, who’s on the autism spectrum, sure did. For years it was all I’d hear about every time I asked what he wanted for his birthday or Christmas: “Puppy please.” He’d even jut out his lower lip and make that irresistible puppy face he’s perfected over the years. I was able to resist for many years — until my sister blindsided me with pictures of a puppy she picked up that didn’t have a home. It was like watching those ASPCA commercials and all I was missing was Sarah McLachlan’s music in the background. So of course I had to go and see the little ball of fur, and the rest is history, as they say.

Letty (the puppy) was 12 weeks old when I brought her home. Immediately she formed a bond with Brock, and I definitely wasn’t prepared for the strength of their bond.

A week or so after brining Letty home, Brock had a meltdown, and within a month of her being with us, he had many more. She didn’t seem to pay any attention to them initially — and then she did.

After about five minutes into one of his meltdowns, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that she was doing this slow, army-type crawl toward Brock as he was on the floor. As soon as she was next to me, I held her back, because any type of touching for Brock during a meltdown usually made them worse. She ignored me and started putting her paw on his chest.

Letty the dog lying next to Brock with one paw on him.

I waited with baited breath for him to scream louder,  but it didn’t come. So next she put both paws on his chest, and then she moved over me and laid her upper body across him and just stayed there with her head in the crook of his neck. After five minutes of Letty lie on him, he started to respond by petting her. And then 10 minutes after that, he calmed down. This was the first time a meltdown was done and over with in less than 30 minutes.

Letty the dog lying on Brock.

Being the cynic I am, I thought it was a fluke. There was no way one little puppy could help him this much, especially with no training. But I was proved wrong.

Over the past five months that we’ve had Letty, I’ve been amazed over and over again. She is always by my side helping calm him, and I even caught her pulling his blanket around him tightly after a meltdown because he always falls asleep when it’s over, and apparently she was watching me much more closely than I thought.

Brock and Letty the dog looking out the window.

Letty has also given Brock a strong sense of friendship. He’s come out of his shell more and has been communicating much more articulately with her around.

Brock is also an only child, and Letty has given him something I didn’t even realize he was missing. She has to sit and watch him get on the bus each morning for school, and she will not move until he’s seated on the bus. And she’s always the first one to greet him when he returns from school. She gets on her hind legs and wraps her paws around him.

If I would’ve known a dog could have this much impact on my child, I would’ve brought one home much sooner. But then again, maybe we were really waiting for the perfect match for Brock.

Brock and Letty the dog smiling outdoors. Brock’s wearing a Batman mask and Letty’s wearing a Spider-Man mask.

Follow this journey on It’s Brock’s World We Just Live in It.

Originally published: October 16, 2015
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