Luca came to me at 8 weeks from Fox Creek to become a therapy dog for my psychology practice.  He went through assistance dog training at Kids and Canines in preparation.  Kids and Canines has “at-risk” middle school students train puppies to be service dogs and is a not-for-profit.  Kids and Canines was thrilled to have a goldendoodle who was provided by and paid for by a member of the community for the full 2 years and who would serve the community after graduation.  Toward the end of Luca’s 2nd year, the staff and I agreed that it would be a good experience for Luca to meet Max, just for the experience of meeting different types of children.  He was not on track to be an autism-service dog, just a therapy dog.  However, it seems that Luca and Max were meant to be and the rest is history.  It is significant that at 4 months of age Luca sustained a significant eye injury (thank you to a cat) requiring significant surgery and lost most of his vision in that one eye. He has learned to compensate and like Max, he too, has had to deal with some real challenges.  Luca now lives with Max and his family and even though I miss him terribly, I know he is in the right place with the right people doing the right thing!

Wendy B. Rice, Psy.D.
Licensed Psychologist

Our special needs son, Max, struggles with many ailments.  The biggest obstacle is Max has no verbal language and due to muscle issues he cannot use sign language and he is not developed enough mentally or coordinated enough to write.  Max also lacks any type of impulse control so when adding this along with his communication barriers Max is in constant danger because he loves to flee without any type of warning.  This has led to a very isolating lifestyle not only for Max but for our entire family, especially for Max’s 2 siblings.  Having our service dog, Luca, has allowed our entire family to be out in the public again.  Even simply going to the grocery store is now possible and Max is so happy to be out in the community.  Max is attached to Luca via a leash that wraps around his waist and I have a controlling leash that wraps around my waist.  This way if Max starts to run away Luca grounds himself and Max stops when he feels the leash pull him back.  Luca has also helped with giving people we encounter a visual clue that Max is special needs (to simply look at Max one wouldn’t know he was disabled).  This has resulted in people being much kinder and patient with our special circumstance, people even come up to Max and give him high fives when before having Luca typically Max would either be starred at, mocked or ignored by adults and kids we saw in public.  Luca has given our family freedom and is helping to keep Max safe and also Max now has his first friend in Luca.
Merry Christmas everyone… thought I would share a quick story.  Last year when we took the whole family to pick out a Christmas tree we had a VERY cranky Max… that process is so abstract to Max… he doesn’t understand why we are there, walking so slow, touching and looking at the trees, etc.  Last year it was such a stressful experience with Max screaming and stomping and running away – so many people glaring at us – and then, of course, trying to be fun and festive for the girls.

This year was a different experience thanks to Luca.  Max got a little upset after being there for a minute but then he quickly got distracted with Luca and started twiddling with his tail.  Jon eventually pulled the car around after we picked a tree and Max was still happy to watch them cut the tree, bundle it up, etc. so we simply stayed outside for a bit and enjoyed the moment.  He really enjoyed the trip and the girls got to take their sweet time to pick out the perfect tree.

Thanks again so much for this wonderful gift – we treasure Luca, the super dog!
Interestingly, Max has started a new thing with Luca… exactly at 4:59pm everyday Max brings me his talking device and has it state “I want Luca to eat” – he insists that Luca eat exactly at 4:59 – he loves taking care of Luca.  When Max is not home Luca will simply curl up at Max’s bedroom door and sleep.  Luca LOVES swimming in the pool with Max and has become a very strong swimmer.
Max got out the back patio door recently (I was on the side of the house and saw this happen – I didn’t move since Luca nor Max knew I was there – just wanted to see what would happen naturally)… Max walked calmly out the door (at first) and Luca followed right behind him and then Max started running fast… Luca ran super fast after him and leapt in the air, he grabbed Max’s shirt with his teeth and wouldn’t let go until I caught up.  Wow!!