Last Thursday, we attached Stephen and Benji together to get them used to walking together. We had to improvise on the harness because Stephen refuses to wear it. However, he loves to wear life vests, so we used that instead of the harness. Then we tied a leash from his vest to Benji’s service dog jacket and had them walk around the house together, with Stephen holding onto a loop attached onto Benji’s jacket. It worked great! Stephen walked calmly beside Benji for about fifteen minutes and seemed to have no desire to stop, and he rarely dropped the loop I asked him to hold. This Thursday, my mentor Peggy will be helping me with some of the finer details and making sure I have done everything correctly. Hopefully soon, we will be ready to go out into public with Benji and Stephen!
Also on Thursday, I interviewed an expert in the field of autism, Jonathan Hunt, a teacher at the Virginia Institute of Autism. He gave me a lot of valuable information that will not only help me on my final paper but also with my work with Stephen.
On Saturday, the Junior Ambassadors had a training session at the mall in Charlottesville where they learned how to work with service dogs. It went great. The JA’s had a lot of fun and received a lot of attention from passerby. They learned “down-stays,” where they have the dog lie down and stay as they drop the leash and walk away. They even stopped to parade around Build-A-Bear Workshop with the dogs! This training session prepared the JA’s for when they and several dogs will go to an assisted living facility and visit with the elderly there.