Saturday 14 March 2020

A Superhero Pup for Lachlan

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Late last year, I posted an article about L being accepted to receive an Autism Assistance Service Dog. We began our fundraising campaign in November and have been gradually adding funds to our goal of $20,000.

Well, a few weeks ago we were contacted by Smart Pups inviting us to an annual luncheon that is organised by a gentleman by the name of Craig Harley. Every year for the last seven years (this year being the eight year,) Craig organises a corporate fundraising luncheon for Smart Pups and every year, he asks Smart Pups to choose one Autistic child to receive some of the money raised that goes directly into their campaign. L was chosen to be that child. A few weeks ago we visited one of the Smart Pups training venues on the Sunshine Coast where we filmed a short clip about why we were fundraising for a Smart Pup, this would be played at the beginning of the function, and L met several puppies.

Thursday just gone was the day of the function. Both little superheroes had been counting down the days because, a. they would get to pat some more puppies, and b. they would get to meet a famous Australian swimmer.

Daddy superhero, myself and O got dressed up on our finest but L decided that shorts, a t-shirt and no shoes was the go. He was comfortable and had clothes on and that is all that matters! We packed all of the necessities - electronic devices, charging cords and portable power banks, body sock and other sensory items. We knew that the function was going to be quite large, we were told that 400 tickets had been sold already, so there was the potential for both little superheroes to enter into sensory overload.

When we arrived at The Paddo, the enormity of the function was a little overwhelming to both little superheroes. We were seated at the Smart Pups table so there were lots of Smart Pups to assist both little superheroes. They loved Boots, who was an old hand at being a service dog. They both needed to wear their block ear protectors. The body sock was used as where the other sensory items.

We met and chatted with Dawn Fraser and Ian Thorpe, two Australian swimming living legends. Dawn is a huge supporter of Smart Pups and has attended every fundraising function since it first started. Both Ian and Dawn are very friendly, very down to earth and very humble about their achievements. Ian is also very tall, he's huge!

Both little superheroes were looking forward to meeting Ian Thorpe, we didn't know that Dawn Fraser would be there though, due to the swimming connection. Both little superheroes loves their swimming lessons.

As the clip was about to play about how an Autism Assistance dog would help L, we were invited onto the stage to talk about how a Smart Pup would help L. By this stage L was well and truly overwhelmed and had made himself a cubby house underneath the table that we were sitting at, so Daddy superhero, O and myself made our way onto the stage.

This was a bit of a surprise as I didn't realise that we'd be speaking to the function attendees. We had a chat with Donna Lynch, one of the MC's and then she asked us to stand. At this point I began thinking, what on earth was about to happen. Well, unbeknownst to us, we were invited to the luncheon because the patron of the luncheon, Wally Fullerton-Smith, wanted to present L with his Smart Pup.

Every year Craig Harley asks one of his contacts to be the patron of the function. Smart pups then names one of the puppies in the patron's honour and that pup is presented to the child who is effectively the face of Smart Pups at the fundraising function.

So without any further ado, I'd like to introduce the newest member of our family, Wally. Wally is an eight week old Labrador puppy and he is really cute!

It will be quite some time before Wally is placed with us at home as he has to successfully complete all of his training, but as you can see L was over the moon. Initially L was unsure, but when he realised that Wally was his puppy, a huge smile broke out on his face and stayed there.

Daryl Braithwaite, an iconic Australian artist, was performing at the function and even he wanted a cuddle with Wally. Wally on the other hand, had other ideas!!

We were able to have a long chat with Wally Fullerton-Smith about Lachy and how Wally (the pup) would be able to assist L. By this stage, L was well and truly over photos and had hidden again. And while speaking with Wally (the person,) he wiped more than a few tears from his eyes. He asked if we could keep him informed about how Wally (the pup) was going and L, to which we responded a resounding "of course we will." Both little superheroes therapists over the last few years have become like family members as they've invested a lot of personal time and effort into both little superheroes. Wally Fullerton-Smith, you're now part of our superhero family network. Wally (the person) also showed that underneath his tough NRL exterior, he is a softie at heart.

When L realised that Wally was his pup, the smile on his face was beautiful. There wasn't a dry eye around us. And with a fluffy face like this, who could resist.

We went out the back where all of the pups could go to have a break and Erin, our trainer, sat down with both little superheroes and Wally and did some basic training with Wally. We've been invited up to the Smart Pups training facility at any stage during Wally's training so that we can see what he's been up to with Erin. This will also give L and Wally the opportunity to strengthen the bond that was started on Thursday.

This is a unique opportunity for us as usually a family who will receive a Smart Pup do not find out the name of their Smart Pup until approximately four weeks before placement at home. Being able to follow Wally's training every step of the way is just wonderful and for that, we're very grateful.

Even O had a few cuddles with Wally. She too is smitten with Wally. While Wally is primarily L's Smart Pup, in time Wally will also be able to assist O with her anxiety.

On Thursday, we were not only surprised with L's Smart Pup, Wally, but Chris from Big Dog Pet Foods informed us that they will be providing us with a year's worth of dog food for Wally. This will take a huge financial cost off of our shoulders, so thank you.

On all of the tables at the function, were several of these little plush Smart Pups. As we were about to leave, L asked Kylie from Smart Pups if he could take home some of the puppies. We came home with four of them!! Not to be confused with Wally, but these two tiny Smart Pups are now known as WesWally! And O has named her tiny Pup, Waldo.

Both little superheroes have begun planning what Wally (the pup) can wear when we go to Supernova next year.

I am sure that the next twelve months are going to fly by. L is missing Wally (the pup) already and is looking forward to another day trip to see his pup again.

We are so very grateful to Patricia, Kylie and all of the other employees at Smart Pups, Wally Fullerton-Smith, Craig Harley, Chuggy and all of the other staff from The Paddo who worked at the function and all of the attendees at the function. Your contributions will make a huge difference to L's life, and others, and many other families who are currently waiting to receive a Smart Pup.

We're also very grateful to a close family friend, Kaz Doyle, who helped to kick off our fundraising campaign. To Bribie Island and District Woodcrafters Group, a huge thank you. Your group came on board to assist us with fundraising and we thank you for your support. To all of you who have donated money and prizes for us to raffle off, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you so much. Your support means the world to our family.

We are feeling very grateful and very, very loved.

While we have reached our goal and can see a light at the end of the tunnel, there are many other families who are yet to reach their goal of $20,000. Prior to the function, we decided that if we reached our target, we'd continue to fundraise so that we could support Smart Pups and other families. So that's what we are going to do.

For those not in the know, Wally Fullerton-Smith is a former Australian representative and National Rugby League player for St George Illawarra Dragons.

Sunday 1 March 2020

Thoughts from my children ..... Part Two

Both of my little superheroes have voices. O is wanting to self advocate for herself and others, and L is beginning to articulate his thoughts. I want them both to have more of a voice on my blog, so here are a few more of their thoughts.

I love listening to them describe how they think, feel and view the world around them as it gives me more insight into their world.

[What is normal? Our normal is having Autism. Another person's normal is not having Autism. Everyone's normal is different from each other so there is no such thing as normal.
O, 10 years.]

[Autism isn't like a light bulb. I can't turn my Autism on and off.
If you can't see my Autism then you need to look a little closer.
O, 10 years.]

[Why do people say that Autism needs to be cured?
Autism isn't a disease, it isn't an illness. Autism is a different way of thinking and viewing the world. We don't need to be cured. We need to be accepted for who we are.
O, 10 years.]

[My brain don't like when there too much noise. 
My brain tells me I got to escape cos it scared.
L, 7 years.]

[I got Awes-tism and I got 80-HD.
So I'm awesome and I got fast brain superpower!
L, 7 years.]

[Sometimes I can't talk. I want to talk and I see the pictures in my brain that I want to say but the words get stuck. Then my brain get confused and the pictures move too fast so I got to use my sounds and my hands to do the talking thing.
L, 7 years.]

[Sometimes my brain not let me talk so I got to use my hands to do the talking 
and my eyes to do the listening.
L, 7 years.]

[During a meltdown ....
I can't respond to you, my brain won't let me, so please just stay nearby.
I don't meant to lash out, please don't take it personally, my brain is hijacking my body.
I may repeat phrases, but I don't remember what I am saying.
Reassure me and keep me safe.
Talking to me makes my brain think there is more danger, so please try not to talk.
Afterwards, I may just want a cuddle to comfort me.
O, 10 years.]

[My Autism is my Autism.
My brother's Autism is his Autism.
We're both different but similar at the same time.
O, 10 years.]

[Just because you can't see my Autism or my anxiety. doesn't mean that it's not there. What you see on the outside of me, doesn't necessarily represent how I feel on the inside.
O, 10 years.]

[Autism, anxiety, sensory processing difficulties, ADHD aren't always visible. But that doesn't make them any less real.
O, 11 years.]