Hey there! We are the Lackey family from Bray, Co Wicklow – Dad Rob, Mam Jenny & three lovely little ones – Martha aged 8, Rosa aged 6 & Ewan aged 3.
Our little boy Ewan received an official ASD diagnosis in February ’13, just before he turned 3. Ewan would probably fall into the bracket of ‘classic autism’ – he is non-verbal with learning delay & lots of sensory processing issues. But generally he is a lovely boy with a lovely temperament, who is ALWAYS on the go!
A chance meeting & a great decision
Just a couple of weeks after Ewan received his official diagnosis, I went along to an autism information morning being hosted in Greystones by the local autism support group. While wandering around (a bit unsure of myself to be honest as it was all very new to me!) by chance I bumped into Sinead Brock Dutton & having known Sinead’s friendly face through work in the past, we stopped to chat. Sinead was manning an information stand for My Canine Companion (along with some other MCC family members Maggie & Eileen!) and she introduced me to her beautiful assistance dog Oscar & told me how amazing he had been for her little boy Oisin. Sinead told me all about MCC & the wonderful work they do – and while I left the information morning a little dazed that day (my head swimming with new autism related information!) I was determined to get in touch with MCC…. And the rest they say, is history!
Orli came to live with us on November 8th 2013. It was an amazing day – we hadn’t told the kids anything about Orli and headed off to Blarney to collect Orli that morning so full of excitement. Both of us being complete dog novices (let alone an assistance dog!) we were also very nervous to be joining the MCC Puppy Programme!
The friendly faces that met us at MCC HQ put us right at ease and after a very informative few hours basic training we were introduced to Orli.. and we fell head first in love with our beautiful ball of fluff!
We took her home to Wicklow that night and the kids reactions were just as we had hoped. Ewan’s first reaction was to run and give Orli a kiss and his sisters were absolutely thrilled & unable to sleep that night with the excitement of seeing Orli the next morning! Our first night as ‘new’ parents, we were worried how Orli would settle – but after just a little short time of crying Orli settled down and really she has been great at night since. The first few weeks were very much a steep learning curve for us – Orli had a few small feeding issues which caused us novices some worry but the great support through the online MCC family & our new vet, we overcame them with a little stress!
Orli has been with us now for just 7 weeks and although we are still in the early days of puppy hood (lots of mouthing, chewing socks, ankles, sandal straps!) life has definitely changed for the better! Ewan and Orli are beginning to have a lovely relationship – Ewan is incredibly gentle and tolerant of her. Orli, being still a baby of 16 weeks, can of course get a bit excited and little rough with mouthing Ewan, so on occasion I have had to put her out into the garden if Ewan was upset. She sits looking forlornly through the patio door & gives a little bark to be let back in. Within about 2 weeks Ewan started going to the door, opening it just enough to allow Orli in and closing the door again behind her! To see Ewan understanding Orli’s request and letting her in is just amazing for us to see & shows a lovely communication between them both that really Ewan hasn’t showed with many others – he can often be engrossed in his own world so this interaction between them is just fantastic to see.
We have all just enjoyed our first Christmas with Orli and it has been great to introduce her to all the family who are all just as mad about her as we are! We have had wonderfully positive experiences out and about with her – people are so interested in her & the fact that she is an assistance puppy for Ewan.
We have found Orli provides us with a wonderfully positive way to inform people that Ewan has autism – rather than waiting for them to ask or perhaps needing to explain, perhaps if Ewan’s behaviour makes it obvious (e.g. his stimming, shouting etc) Orli’s bandana/jacket states that she is an assistance dog for autistic children. And therefore we don’t have that awkward moment of always needing to explain.. Orli’s presence does that for us! It is much easier to talk about autism in a positive light when the conversation starts with a beautiful little puppy and her amazing job (& the great charity who have given us this amazing opportunity!)
An exciting New Year!
So we can’t wait for 2014 & the benefits we know Orli will bring, especially to Ewan of course but also to us as a family! I hope to be able to share the exciting year ahead with Orli through some further blog posts. In the mean time – Happy New Year from Orli & the Lackey Family!