An Autism Service Dog Graduation Speech

An Autism Service Dog

"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." -Unknown

When your child receives a diagnosis, your world spins. Your mind tries desperately to manage emotions so intense you wonder if you’ll ever make it through. And then, then you find someone else just barely able to stay afloat and you look at them, secretly at first. How do they do it? Do they feel the guilt, shame, fear? Do they feel a love so fiercely protective that they can hardly breathe? Are they like you? And then you realize they are like you. You open up a little, and then a little more. You talk, you laugh, and you share. You bond because there are few like you and your friendship will be rare. This week many of these rare bonds were formed, and for that we are grateful.

All our life we have realized that dogs, who have no ego or fear of failure, are the most superior of friends. We want this friendship for all of our children. Whether it be a loyalty that keeps them safe in a world so difficult to navigate, or the deep pressure that makes them feel calm, a dog will help us teach our children all the most important lessons about life.

A dog, like a parent, will love a child more than it loves itself. For this reason, these dogs are the only therapy suitable for living in our world, day and night, year after year. If you need more evidence than that, I suggest you look into the kind brown eyes of any pup in the room.

A Service Dog's Manifesto

You’ve no doubt bonded with your pup already. He likely adores you, too. If he could speak, this is what I believe he would say to you today:

  • I will miss my puppy raisers and trainers because they are my family, but I know that you are now my family, too.
  • I won’t forget how selflessly and tirelessly they worked to show me how amazing I am, all the while knowing they would be saying good-bye someday soon.
  • I won’t forget the patience and cuddles and treats. I won’t forget my lessons and all the hard work.
  • I won’t forget my first family, who so kindly prepared me for my forever family. I won’t ever forget.
  • I will love your child with such abandon that it will make you weep at times. That’s okay though, I will lick your tears, because I will love you, too.
  • I will protect your baby. I will keep her close and safe. I will be her connection to a strange world. I will be her safe place.
  • I won’t need words to understand what she needs because I don’t use words either, you see.
  • Trust me and let me do the job I was born and raised to do, a job I take so very seriously.
  • And don’t think I won’t be providing some much needed therapy for you, too. A scratch behind the ear (where the philosophers say my soul resides) and a kiss on the head and I won’t be the only one feeling on top of the world. Let me do that for you.
  • So, for now, get ready, because the best part of this journey is about to begin. What are you waiting for? Get me home to my kid! I have work to do. The best work in the world.

And if some of you have shed a tear today, then let me lighten the mood with a quote to end this speech:

“A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.” ― Robert Benchley

Thank you,

Alex and Shanell

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