After twenty years of involvement with animal assisted therapy, I never stop learning. That is what is so incredible about this journey.
Over the years I learned that blind children knew Coco felt like cotton balls and that the cotton (and Coco) was white.
I learned that Benny has the saddest eyes from the children who understand sadness.
I learned that Kirby was a true survivor from those who have survived the most.
I learned that those who have the least want to give the most.
I learned that no two children or adults on the autism spectrum are the same.
I learned that no two dogs are the same.
After almost two years of weekly visits with Julian, I learned that I will never know enough. I will never fully understand his world, how he sees things, how he hears things, how he perceives things.
I will never fully understand how something he knew just a week ago is now locked in his databank.
How something no one knew he knows pops out in conversation!
How he can look at something forever and not seem to see it.
How he can all of a sudden say something so profound everyone in the room takes a breath.
And this week we learned that he learns visually.
We have been spending time writing his Dog Book and writing captions for pictures of dogs he has met and worked with and especially his friend, Benny.
He always looks at the picture first. Then he carves out a response to match the picture.
So this week, I wanted to see if he could make the connection and "fill in the blanks" without pictures.
No dogs this time.
Just words. Just a list he was asked to construct.
Name all the dogs he has met or come to know about.
The total is 17.
He struggled to come up with names without seeing the dog's photo first.
But he did it.
He got to about 12 on his list and he did an exceptional job. He did need some prompting and clues now and then, but he remembered dogs he met two years ago.
And I will never stop learning about my dogs. Benny especially.
How he can be so incredibly patient just waiting for Julian to say or do something, but at home be so impatient!
How he can move closer and closer to Julian without prompting just "because."
How he can look right into Julian's eyes as if to say "it's ok to look at people."
How he can let Julian get so close he can give him little kisses without scaring the child.
How he can wait forever for a treat because it can take that long for Julian to give it to him.
How the imperfect dog can be the perfect therapy dog.
So I hope we all continue to learn new things and appreciate every opportunity to meet new people, new dogs, new experiences head on.