Autism Assistance Dog: Sponsor Update – Part 1

As promised, we are starting a new series of posts for our sponsors to join us on our new adventure with our service dog, Gus. And many of you might know, that we are still trying to fundraise for a dog, but this time for our awesome friend Morgan. Morgan is an 11 year old boy with Aspergers, who has been severely bullied to such an extend that he suffers from anxiety and he don’t have any friends. I’m hoping that through our series on Gus, that our friends will reach out to help raise funds so Morgan can get his companion that will love him unconditionally. You can read more about Morgan on FB/friendswithmorgan.

When we contacted Service Dogs Europe, we opted for an adult dog because our house is busy as it is and I would not have coped with another new baby so soon after Mouse. After three months of fundraising two year old Golden Retriever, Gus arrived. He is a lovely old soul, with a very BIG heart!!

Our training began on Monday and lasted for three days. A week leading up to Gus’ arrival, Lucky unfortunately didn’t have a great time. He woke up a lot and was very emotional. So, on Monday we started by just giving Lucky and Gus time to bond. I was very surprised that Lucky very quickly started using Gus’ name, but Gus was not allowed to touch him. And Lucky does NOT yet appreciate the deep pressure Gus wants to provide when Lucky gets upset. Lucky plays with Gus by throwing the ball and blowing bubbles for Gus to catch, Lucky is allowed to touch Gus, but he doesn’t yet appear to really love Gus!  Because of Lucky’s spacial and proprioception issues, he doesn’t realise how hard he bumps you or how hard his toys crash in you, and he just walks into you or steps on you without realising. So poor Gus has certainly been crashed into a few times, but he is such a patient and lovable animal.

I was trained as a handler, but Lucky was not really interested in the training, and especially being tethered tо Gus. While in training we went to Bear and Monkey’s school, a shopping mall, and to the nature reserve near our home to learn how to handle Gus when out and about.

The trainer taught us a LOT! And we were tested as a team on fourteen points, below here.  I’m not going to go into too much detail, so feel free to post any questions you may have.

1. Controlled unload out of vehicle
2. Approaching the building
3. Controlled entry through a doorway
4. Heeling through the building
5. Six foot recall on lead
6. Sits on command
7. Downs on command
8. Noise distraction
9. Restaurant
10. Off lead
11. Dog taken by another person
12. Controlled exit
13. Controlled load into vehicle
14. Team relationship

We are teaching Lucky the commands to see if he can expand his language, but it will take time. I know that Woody loves riding  on Gus’ back 😊 The bonding is going to take a lot longer than I anticipated, but as Gus’ is sleeping in Lucky’s room, I’m hoping that over time Lucky will allow Gus’ on his bed and grow to love him as much as the rest of us do.

I am actually amazed that the most weirdest trait that Gus would bring to our dynamic would be acceptance. I mean who would have thought that Gus would help strangers out and about look at Lucky differently just because of Gus’ blue jacket?

I thought I’d video what our other three kiddos think of Gus and share it with you guys.

Now, back to bonding time. And when Lucky and Gus have settled and are sleeping through the night again, our lovely Occupational Therapist will have to come and help Lucky accept Gus into his space. I will keep you posted on our progress x


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  1. Hy sal leer on hom lief the kry met tyd ek houd duimvas dit gebeur gou dit is goed dat julle morgan help hy is n mooi kind en verdien nie om gebullie the word nie. Jy het groot hart vol liefde ek is trots open jou Craig end die kids!

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