How a National Service Dog aids with Autism

Clappison Animal Hospital is proud to sponsor a National Service Dog who resides with the wonderful Millar family. “Gizmo” was introduced to the Millars in 2009 as a therapy canine to aid their son, Luke who has autism. We asked the Millar family to share some insight into how their National Service Dog has impacted their lives & what awareness they could bring to the NSD program:

We got Gizmo in November 2009 and it has by far the best thing we have ever done for Luke. We have tried many different therapies for our son over the years and Gizmo has made the biggest impact in Luke’s life.
We had heard about National Service Dogs and then saw a show called “Dogs with Jobs”. Through the show we were able to see what an asset a service dog could be. Luke is on the severe end of the autism scale and has always been a runner. Keeping Luke safe has undoubtedly been our greatest challenge, so seeing that a service dog would prevent him from running and that a service dog can have a calming effect for children with autism seemed like something we should try.

Upon bringing Gizmo home, he instantly recognized Luke was “his boy” and was ready to work with him. The bond between Luke & Gizmo took a few weeks on Luke’s part; he had to get used to Gizmo being attached. Now they are just a team; Gizmo is his best friend, he goes everywhere with Luke – even to school. Gizmo is a security blanket in the form of a constant companion; even if Luke is in an unfamiliar situation, now he acts OK because Gizmo is right there for his comfort.

Everything we do with Luke is just easier since Gizmo has joined the family. Whether it is a trip to the grocery store or out for dinner. Luke and Gizmo are tethered together so when Luke is anxious he knows he cannot run just away like before; now he will simply have a seat. To families who are not exposed to autism, this may not seem like a lot but for us even something like visiting a restaurant was always a challenge. The first time we were able to go out to eat and not be rushed out after 30 minutes was amazing. We also find that having Luke and Gizmo out in the community together has been very beneficial! When people see a service dog team they are more accepting and understanding to Luke’s behaviours.

It has been a pleasant surprise to our family how many of people recognize Gizmo’s service dog vest and understand he’s a working dog. We have only had a few people question whether he has full public access.

Luke and Gizmo both love to swim so whether it’s at the beach or in Aunt Brenda’s pool that would be their favourite past time. Gizmo loves to play ball so when his vest is off i.e. when he’s not working, Luke will throw the ball for him. Luke is not a great thrower but Gizmo doesn’t mind.

My husband, Chris and Jake (Luke’s older brother) were the ones who really felt a NSD would be a great addition to our family and I was a little more hesitant. My worry would be that it would add more work for us as we were already so busy with Luke.

Gizmo is the best thing we have ever done for Luke and our family!

I know everyone loves their dog but what he gives to us is so much more; he has genuinely changed our lives for the better.

We would also like to thank Clappison Animal Hospital for providing all of Gizmo’s care & sponsoring our National Service Dog, your generosity is overwhelming.

Thank you,
Chris, Heather, Jake, Luke and Gizmo