I had a HAGS meeting today. For those of you who don’t know, HAGS stands for Happy Autism Group Support. A group of friends and I decided to start a support group that focusses on the positives in having a child with autism. We had all been to support groups that the focus seemed to be people whingeing about their kids. Not that we have a problem with whingeing, we all do it ourselves, but not ALL the time. We’d met people who seemed to want nothing more than to ‘beat’ your life story with a worse one. It would make you feel that your worries didn’t count because somebody else had it much worse than you. It started off with 4 of us going out for dinner. We had such a good time that we joked that we should call ourselves a support group, then our husbands couldn’tÂ complain about us going out to dinner all the time! It’s grown a lot since then (3 years ago I believe) with up to 30 members on our mailing list. We’ve done school holiday programs, mum’s nights away and frequent dinners. The funny thing is that often we don’t even talk about our kids with autism. We have a bond that has brought people from all walks of life together, we ‘get’ each other and more importantly we like each other.
We had a meeting scheduled today. It’s normally on a Monday but we had a special guest today and we adapted around others availability to see them. Katie and Bec came out from Dogs for Disabilities. We got our lab via a companion dog program through the guide dogs. She is in effect a Guide Dog reject, a John West dog for those of you who live in Australia. We were on the waiting list for 3 years but she was well worth the wait. As a guide dog she would have been dreadful. She pulls when she sees other dogs (not so much as she’s gotten older though) she ferrets through bins to eat whatever she can, she chews on things and she has been known to poo in people’s bedrooms when visiting (sorry again Tiff!) I had visions of a blind person reaching out for their chewed up stick, stepping in a pile of poo and being dragged across a road of traffic to sniff another dog’s bum! Despite all this she’s a wonderful dog. As far as companion dog duties are concerned she does bark if she sees Beth out towards the car when she shouldn’t be, or outside the front door at night. She doesn’t help in meltdowns or anything like that. We did decide from the get go though that she was to be a family dog anyway and she’s fantastic at that. She goes to her bed while we’re eating, in fact she starts to go there as soon as she sees me bring the plates to the table. She waits at the door to go out to the loo and barks to come back in again. She’s pretty fantastic.
Dogs for Disabilities is quite different from the Guide Dog program. They tailor a lot of it to your wants and needs. They can come out and help you choose the type of dog that you want. I love the fact that you can be your own puppy raiser. They will teach you how to teach the dogs. They will even come out and teach your existing dog if possible. People can choose a breed that they want. Of course some dogs aren’t good for this type of thing but Katie can advise which dogs are. She brought along a standard poodle, a groodle (golden retriever/poodle) and a golden retriever. The last one was like a big teddy bear, he was so cute. We’d like to get a puppy for company for Minka in a couple of years, it would also be nice to get one from a puppy for the kids as it’s a shame to miss out on all that cuteness. (Remind me of this when I’m up in the night tearing my hair out about all the wee spots on the floor!) It’s great to see somebody willing to develop a program for kids with disabilities, they’re starting to be seen and heard at last. If anybody would like any information please let me know and I’ll pass on the details.