Team Henry!


We are Team Henry! Henry was placed with our family on the 17th of May and the last month has just been amazing as we watch the bond between Henry and L, as well as everyone else in the family, develop. Watching Henry in action assisting L on a daily basis is truly heart warming.

While we are out and about with Henry, we're regularly stopped by people who want to admire Henry but also ask questions about his role and what is involved for us as a family.

I will be gradually publishing posts that detail the skills that Henry has been taught and just how he helps L so I thought I would devote a page of the blog where my readers can access all the posts from.

Henry being placed with our family was a journey in itself. Henry is a Smart Pup Autism Assistance Service Dog and was bred and trained by Smart Pups. They are a local based not for profit organisation that train assistance dogs. As they are a not for profit organisation, they do not receive any government funding and rely solely on donations from corporate organisations and fund raising campaigns.

Once we had applied and L was accepted into the Smart Pups program, we had to fund raise $20,000 that went directly to Smart Pups to train these amazing dogs. Hearing that you need to fund raise $20,000 before an assistance dog will be trained for your child, is very daunting but it is doable. I sent emails to all of the local community based groups in our area that I could think of, informing them of our goal to get L an assistance dog and asking them if they could assist us. We didn't want someone to find the money for us, we wanted to be involved every step of the way. We were fortunate in that a local woodcrafters group came on board and we started our fund raising journey on a strong foot.

The total cost of Henry's training is closer to $35,000 but I suspect it is a lot more.

Now that Henry has been placed with us, every step of the eighteen month journey to get to this point is well worth it. And now, the next step in our journey with Henry begins.

Owning and being responsible for an assistance dog is a lot more complex than just having a highly trained family fur member.

If we ever require assistance from Smart Pups and our trainer, they are always just a phone call away. But we as a family, because we support L, are responsible for Henry's day to day welfare and training.

Henry is a certified Assistance/Service Dog and as such we need to ensure that he doesn't lose any of his skills. All of his skills are important, especially those that he had to pass for his public access test, which allows us to take Henry pretty much everywhere.

Every time we leave the house, Henry is in work mode. Then depending on where we are going, for instance if we are going on a walk, we will take Henry out of his work jacket so that he can just be a puppy dog. But every time we leave the house, any time Henry is in work mode, it is an opportunity to practise and hone his skills.

Time during each day, or at least once a week, needs to be set aside simply for training purposes. We need to get Henry to practice his skills on a regular basis. If these skills are not practiced, he may lose the ability to assist L when L needs it most.

Henry needs to be groomed on a regular basis - L brushes Henry every few days and Henry has a bath once a week or sooner if he becomes very dirty. I had a group of children ask me why Henry so good, "he doesn't smell like a wet dog!" As I explained to them, Henry is allowed to go everywhere and you wouldn't want a wet dog smell in a cafe or the library or the classroom! Everytime we go out with Henry, we are essentially representing Smart Pups so we need Henry to look like a well loved and well groomed service dog!

It is huge responsibility owning a service dog, but watching Henry in action assisting L, is well worth the responsibility.

So please help us in welcoming Henry to our family and our Autism journey. You'll be reading quite a bit about him future!

Every service dog and their handlers must pass the public access test (PAT) prior to being certified to work without a trainer being present. Our trainer surprised us with the news that she thought we were ready to attempt the PAT a day earlier than she would usually conduct them. She was right! We passed with flying colours.

Henry is trained to track L when L runs away/elopes due to being overwhelmed by his emotions or sensory overload.

With Henry comes responsibility for L. Henry is assisting L on a daily basis not only in assisting with L's emotional regulation and so on, L is learning how to care for Henry.

Henry is trained to apply deep pressure to L's legs when he needs calming.

What's with all the leads Henry?? We're often asked why does Henry have a long lead, collar and halti when he's working.

So what is an Assistance Dog? There is some confusion between assistance dogs and companion dogs.

While Henry is a working dog, he does have a healthy balance between his work life and just being a typical puppy!

Another skill that Henry is trained to do is grounding himself. This prevents L from running off when we are out and about.

There is even a week in which to celebrate all things Assistance Dogs!

There are many attractions that welcome Assistance Dogs - as well as a few that refuse entry! As we visit new attractions, we'll add to this list of places to go to!

There is an etiquette that should be followed when you have an interaction with any assistance dog, regardless of what they are trained for. So here is a post on what you should, or shouldn't do when you spot an Assistance dog.

When an Assistance Dog is working there are certain things that they should, and shouldn't do.

With Henry's placement, comes responsibility - we are responsible for the day to day ongoing training of Henry.

People often ask, why Smart Pups? This is why!

Henry has been with our family for over twelve months now and oh my gosh, what a huge impact he has had on L and our family as a whole. We have Before Henry and after Henry moments - the reality of what Henry is able to assist L with, far exceed of our expectations of what we hoped Henry would be able to do!! Expectations versus Reality - NuzzlingExpectations versus Reality - SleepExpectations versus Reality - SchoolExpectations versus Reality - TrackingExpectations versus Reality - Independence

As mentioned above, I will add links to the other posts that I will be publishing about exactly how Henry assists L on a daily basis.

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I would love to hear your thoughts on my blog. I do read all the comments that are posted. Thanks so much for stopping by. Jen xx