Lynyrd is an autism service dog and Alex is his special boy.  He was trained by National Service Dogs for two years before being assigned to our family.  Aside from being an amazingly well-trained dog, Lynyrd has also been taught to help keep Alex safe and help him stay calm.

Lynyrd is our family's second service dog.  The dogs have been provided to our family at no cost to us.  National Service Dogs does not receive government funding and relies on donations to cover the $30 000 cost to raise and train a service dog.

Dogs like Lynyrd make a huge difference in the lives of families with autism.  If you'd like to know more about service dogs, please visit the National Service Dogs website.  If you'd like to know more about how Lynyrd helps our family, we have some pictures and stories posted here talking about our adventures in the world of autism.  And if you'd like to make a difference and help families, it would be greatly appreciated if you would make a donation to National Service Dogs.

Keep reading for some photos and examples of how Lynyrd has helped our family.

Riding the Elevators

Alex loves elevators more than any words can describe.  Watching his face light up as the doors slide open or closed, listening to him giggle as the floor numbers change, and watching him bounce on his toes in excitement, there can be no doubt: riding an elevator is far more exciting than anyone could guess.

Lynyrd accompanies us on all the elevators and has helped to keep Alex safe.  Not everyone shares Alex's delight at an elevator ride and in the past we've had people getting upset or looking at us strangely.  Now we get a lot more smiles and nods of understanding.

Summer 2018:

Alex and Lynyrd had a great time at the Museum of Science and Technology's special exhibit, The Art of the Brick.  Alex's favourite part was the build room.

The other big highlight of the summer was a visit to Sesame Street Land and a personal visit with Elmo and Cookie Monster.  Lynyrd was a big help in keeping Alex calm and safe during the excitement of his trip.

February 2018: Our Trip To Disney

Travelling with Alex can be a complicated procedure.  He gets overwhelmed by the noises, crowds and different locations.  He gets obsessed with buttons (when he was eight, we were on a plane and he got obsessed with the "Call attendant" button, starting in the first 15 minutes of flight).  And he will dash away from us if given the opportunity.
Alex and Lynyrd ride the Monorail, Alex's favourite part of Disney.

Having Lynyrd made a big difference for our trip this time around.  With Lynyrd tethered to Alex, we could take the brief mental break to do things like figure out which gate our flight boarded at rather than having to be 100% focused on Alex at all times.

This was Alex's second trip to Disney, which meant he had some pretty distinct ideas on what he wanted to do.  On our previous trip, we averaged about 2 to 3 hours in the park before we approached meltdown levels for Alex.  This time, Alex was able to spend a substantial portion of the day (about 5 hours) at the parks, though we still took two days off during the week.

Last time, we mostly rode the monorail and Disney buses, met some princesses and other characters, and walked around the parks.  This time, we actually coaxed Alex on some rides.

Disney's Frozen Ever-After, which Alex loved and Lynyrd was not impressed by.
Lynyrd wasn't able to go on all of the rides, but he did participate in a fair number of them.  He spent most of the Frozen ride with his nose buried in my side (the black lump at the front is Lynyrd), getting frequent rewards of treats.  But it was worth it to see Alex smiling and singing along with the characters.

Waiting outside the Crystal Palace to meet the Winnie the Pooh gang.
Having Lynyrd gave us a lot more flexibility and frankly, peace of mind, than on our previous trip.  And I think Alex enjoyed it more than his first time around.  This time, he knew what to expect and it wasn't as overwhelming as our first trip.

There were still some challenges.  We didn't end up being able to use the disability pass because Alex was exhausted just from the FastPass + selections that we'd already planned.  And because we didn't stay on the resort, he wasn't able to do some of the experiences he wanted to: like Cinderella's Royal Table.  But he did join us for Mickey and Minnie's Backyard BBQ (which he bailed on the previous trip).

One of the challenges that surprised me was the number of vacation homes that would not permit a service dog to stay on premises.  A registered service dog is entitled to enter any publicly-accessible building or activity, but if someone is renting out a private home, that falls under the category of a private residence instead and they are allowed to refuse access to the dog.  We wouldn't have had this problem in a hotel, but then there would have been more of a challenge with finding appropriate relief areas.

I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to go across the border with Lynyrd.  A quick check of his vaccination certificates to make certain he was up to date and no further issue.  I had all sorts of paperwork ready, showing that he was trained and certified and testifying that Alex needed him, but I didn't have to show it once during the entire trip.

Alex and Lynyrd looking at the old-fashioned
traffic lights at Hollywood Studios.
The people we encountered were pleasant and understanding as well.  Many expressed interest in Lynyrd and Alex and asked questions about their partnership.  We had a few incidents where we had to remind folk that Lynyrd was working and thus couldn't be petted, but for the most part, people asked first and were fine when we said no.

The airline gave us the priority seating rows, which have a little more legroom than the standard economy options.  I'd love to be able to afford to fly first class or buy Lynyrd his own seat so that he wouldn't be squished under our legs, but he handled it like a trooper.  (Though he did have a hard time initially understanding that he wasn't going to get to sit in the seat.)

Now we're back in the cold and grey winters of Canada, which makes Lynyrd happier but the rest of us a little nostalgic for the Florida sunshine.  I think Lynyrd misses getting to work all day every day.  Hopefully, we'll be able to send him to school with Alex soon.  I think they'll both be happier when they can have the days together.

Meanwhile, we've got a bunch of new photos for our albums and some new memories to look fondly back on.  And some ideas for our next venture into the world of the Mouse.

Out to Play

Lynyrd works hard most days but he still needs some time to be a dog and chase a Frisbee.  Having him and Alex play together is an important part of their bonding process.