It was 8:45 on a Thursday morning, cold enough for puffy winter boots but not cold enough for snow. Kat Anderson woke up rooting for at least a dusting, but the sidewalk was perfectly clear. As maybe only mothers of children with autism know, a length of bare pavement that looks harmless to ordinary eyes rarely is.Ordinary eyes don’t notice the cracks and splotches of paint that can become an obsession for some kids or even make them bolt into traffic.
Atlas Anderson, 3, was going to walk to school, tied at the waist to his new Labrador and golden retriever cross. The 70-pound dog was bred to be a sort of life jacket for Atlas, one of the youngest children in Canada to receive a National Service Dog. Kat and George Anderson brought him home — a pretty brick Victorian in Orangeville — just before Halloween after months of intense training.
They had been on a wait list for nearly a year when the charity in Cambridge, Ont., called to say their $30,000 gift was ready. That’s how much each highly trained dog is valued at over the course of its eight- to 10-year working life. National Service Dogs is the first program in the world to provide this opportunity to families with kids who have autism.
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Rebecca is an independent publisher working to help siblings of children with emotional challenges.