Sammy the Autism Assistance Dog – An Update

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Sammy the Autism Assistance Dog & Miss Savannah
Sammy the Autism Assistance Dog & Miss Savannah

Well we have now had Sammy for 8 mths. How life has changed for us all. Sammy is a beautiful Golden Retriever and is an Autism / seizure assistance dog, whom we received for our daughter Savannah in March this year. When we applied for Sammy we knew what he would be capable of doing and how he would assist Savannah , but we really didn’t realise how much he would change the lives of the rest of our family members too.

Prior to Sammy arriving, Savannah was generally a happy child, however she also got angry, and frustrated easily, often taking it out on her loved ones. She was a “runner” (literally taking off on us), as well as having a very impulsive side to her. This meant taking her shopping by myself was very difficult. As an example of how difficult, when things just got too much for Savannah she would lay on the floor on her back doing the action of snow angels as she moved across the floor of any shop, shopping center floor or foot path; often making loud noises or screaming at the top of her voice. Or when being taken to a public toilet, Savannah would unlock the door and run as fast as she could towards an exit – one time making it to the foot path before I caught up with her. In the end I refused to take Savannah shopping on my own, so if I didn’t have someone to help me she stayed at home with grandparents or her father. At the time I didn’t realise how much I was depriving Savannah and myself of wonderful mother and daughter time and experiences.

Sammy & Savannah having a break whilst shopping
Sammy & Savannah having a break whilst shopping

However what a difference Sammy has made. Since we received Sammy, Savannah and I spend every Monday together, shopping, having morning tea, going to the library or going to the park. Although we love having company we also now love our mother and daughter time. Our stress levels are minimal at worst. I no longer need to hold her arm or hand in fear she will run off. (I have also discovered Savannah has very good taste in clothes and shoes!).

If asked what it is exactly that Sammy does to help Savannah out so much it is hard to tell you. I just know that when Savannah is with her Sam and out & about she is not anxious, she is not scared, she does not want to run away from him or myself. When in public, Savannah has a belt which attaches to Sammy’s harness, keeping them connected. When (for example) I tell Sammy to go into a “down” position, I can then drop his lead, which gives me two hands free to place things in a trolly, look at clothes or pay for groceries or food in a food court, knowing that Savannah cannot take off whilst I do that. When I turn around I know she will still be there, waiting with Sammy as he is trained to stay in a down position until commanded to do otherwise.

I know when I place Sammy in a down position near the car, Savannah will not run out into traffic or around the car park. It gives me time to get Savannah safely into the car without incident. Savannah is 122cm tall and 22.7 kg. Sammy is a Golden Retriever who weighs around 34kg and when standing is taller than Savannah’s waist level. This means when attached to Sammy, if Savannah wants to go somewhere she has to pull Sammy along with her – harder said than done but she has tried! Good luck with that!

Savannah & Sammy ready for bed
Savannah & Sammy ready for bed

What else does Sammy offer? Whether we are out and about or at home, Sammy can turn a frown into a smile (he has beautiful soft ears which Savannah loves to play with if she gets anxious). At home he listens to her read books (Savannah has limited speech and cannot read, so it is lovely to have someone who will not judge you or deflate your ego). He lets her win snap games, and listens to her as she babbles away about whatever takes her fancy; he plays (meaning takes off with) toy cars and he even puts up with her very monotoned signing. Sammy plays ball, sometimes rough but mostly gently (after all he is only 2 years of age).

The coolest thing Sammy does is track Savannah. We have had to use his tracking ability on our rural property already, with losing Savannah being a constant fear for us. While it is the most terrifying time when we cannot find Savannah because she has slipped off quietly while we are playing, gardening or feeding farm animals, it really is the best skill he has by far and we have total faith in Sam’s ability. Once on Savannah’s scent he will find her in a matter of seconds; keeping up with him is quiet a feat. Needless to say as a result we practice tracking often.

Sammy sleeps with Savannah which means if Savannah wakes up at night so does Sammy, and he then leads her safely into our bedroom. On the rare time she goes to the kitchen or bathroom instead of following him, Sammy will come and wake us. In that way we know if Sammy is in our room, Savannah is up. Prior to Sammy arriving we used to have a lot of disturbed nights, but not any more.

We will always be forever grateful for the wonderful job that Smartpups have done in training this most beautiful of dogs for us. We only wish more special needs children could have a dog like Sammy to bring joy and safety to not only the children but to their families too.

Editor’s note: Be assured at pups4sale we will keep you updated on Savannah and Sammy’s wonderful adventure through life together. It truly is a remarkable story of a girl and her very best of best friends.

One Response to “Sammy the Autism Assistance Dog – An Update”

  1. jan and jack wallace

    What an uplifting and wonderful story. Win win for everybody. Keep up the good work everybody. : )

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