You don’t usually get goosebumps and happy tears from a story about a visit to the dentist, we know. But this isn’t your usual dental office story.
To get the full effect, you have to know Max: a sweet, curious, eight year old boy with spiky hair and a big smile. Max was diagnosed with autism when he was three, and in some ways hasn’t developed much beyond that age. He struggles with anxiety and making friends with his peers. His verbal ability is good, but he tends to get lost in his own world and ignore the people and activity around him.
You also have to know INDY: a gentle, loving, two year old Golden Retriever with curly hair and watchful eyes. INDY was custom-trained as a PAWS Service Dog for Children with Autism. He and Max were paired as a team last December. Max’s parents hoped that INDY would draw Max out and help him develop age-appropriate social skills and independence.
Max’s mom, Jamie, explained what happened when she took him in February for a routine teeth cleaning:
“Max was playing with a truck by himself near INDY while we were waiting our turn. He was oblivious to the room around him. After some time, a little girl and her mom walked in; they saw INDY and came over to talk to us. They’d just moved to Michigan, and weren’t familiar with PAWS. As we spoke, Max never acknowledged their presence.
“Soon, the girl asked me if she could pet INDY. I told her she’d have to check with Max, since INDY is his dog. I got Max’s attention so she could ask, and after I repeated her question for him, he looked her in the eye, hesitated just a moment then firmly said, ‘Yes.’
“As they both knelt and stroked INDY, I listened to Max tell the girl about INDY’s teeth and how he brushed them every day. I watched as they got up together, went to observe the fish tank and then came back and kept talking about INDY.
“To anyone else in that room, their exchange looked like a typical day at the dentist. But I saw and felt a miracle! Max had a meaningful conversation with another child without assistance aside from INDY. INDY silently opened a door for Max to step out of his own world and meet a new friend.
“Needless to say, we left with much more than clean teeth that day! Without INDY, that waiting room had only a truck in it. With INDY, it had more than a boy could have ever seen by himself. INDY is Max’s Service Dog, and a seeing eye dog for his soul! THANK YOU, Paws With A Cause!”
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Thank you so much.