Our Purpose

My only child, Matthew James, is a very special little boy. Born in November of 1999, I lost him to non-verbal Autism in February 2001. He's the greatest joy of my life, although my heart still aches with hope for his life.

Matthew lives on the periphery of our world, only interacting with me or other members of our family when he wants to, or when he needs something. He's a very good little boy, but I long for him to be able to engage with his us and other aspects of our world more appropriately and comfortably.

Inspired by the idea of Animal Assisted Therapy, especially those dogs who are now being trained for children with Autism, I felt strongly that this complimentary therapy could make a difference in his life.

Unlike other families who wish to obtain an Autism Service Dog that has ALREADY been trained, and therefore a much more significant investment upfront, I felt the best option for our family - most specifically the best option for my son, was to get puppy that could grow and learn WITH him.

I knew I could inspire Matthew's interest in a dog more successfully, if he's given a longer period of time to become accustomed to one. From the day to day acclimation that would be required, he'll come to understand that a puppy learns and grows as he does - and can become a valued member of our family!

And so, I'd like to introduce you to Amistad's Falen aka "Pippi" our special dog for our special needs.

Why an Australian Shepherd?

Aussie's are known for their high level of intelligence and their strong desire to "work." I fell in love with the breed when I worked in an Assisted Living community and met "Buddy," a four year old Australian Shepherd who belonged to one of our residents. He still lives with her at the community in the special wing dedicated to residents with memory impairments. He has a wonderful personality, and it was evident that he thoroughly enjoyed visiting with all of the many people he came into contact with everyday.

In an article from Psychiatric Times, "Therapy with children now part of a dog's life," (which I've also included in our blog's navigation to the right) Child and adolescent psychiatrist Rachel Fleissner, M.D., has two trained dogs assisting her in therapy with children diagnosed with mental and developmental disorders. Those dogs are Australian Shepherds!

Because Australian Shepherds are "sight dogs," they are masters at reading body language, said Fleissner.

Having a child who is non-verbal means having to suffer through a crash-course in reading body language! After much research on the topic of Autism Service Dogs, I knew that the Australian Shepherd breed was going to be a good fit for my son and me.

Our Journal Archive

Journal #13 - June 4, 2009

So much to share about the last seven months!

Life has been hectic,busy,heartbreaking,challenging,and yet strangely calming and fulfilling - ALL at the same time! Pippi and Matthew's relationship has grown and with it have come the hurdles we face in any relationship. I had to know that it wouldn't be THAT easy! I'm dealing with a dog, and an energetic one at that, as well as a child who is not able to speak verbally. I'd be a fool to think that this "honey-moon" phase would last forever. Meh!

Well...the economic tenor of the times fell hard upon my little family. With the loss of my job, and the difficulties that ensued from that experience, I struggled to rearrange our living situation and therefore our lifestyle. Pride goes out the window when all that matters is taking care of your child. Blessedly, I have the most wonderful parents ever - and we've built a new life together once again...with our veritable zoo of animals that we love like children. :)

Pippi has been especially happy to be living (full-time now) with the greater pack - which included Annie (my parent's beloved Field Champion English Cocker Spaniel) and Rowdy (my parents first foray - before they new any better - into Australian Shepherds. So shhhhh...don't tell him that he's actually a "mini" - because since Pippi has come along, he looks and acts like a full-fledged Aussie!!) She thinks all of the cats exist only for her "herding" pleasure and happily keeps them indoors where they're supposed to remain, albeit THEY are not always happy about that!

Because of Matthew's love for the pool, she's learned to swim, and help us with the gardening. She's helped Matthew and I carry the hose around to all of our beautiful plants and flowers, AND she's also helped me re-pot flowers and plants LONG before I ever realized they needed repotting. (Are you catching my drift here??)

She's mastered the art of Flippy Floppin' Fun - and can catch her Flippy in the air with circus like acrobatics that rival the skills of the best Flying Disc dogs. Methinks we see a VERY interesting development for her and Matt in the future!! And typical of my over-active imagination, I started to envision how I could develop an "recreational engagement program" for them that could be a template for future endeavors. I call it "Palz with Pawz." More to come on that later!

My Favorite Quotes About Dogs

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. ~Roger Caras

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went
~Will Rogers

There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.
~Ben Williams

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.
~Josh Billings

The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.
~Andy Rooney

We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It’s the best deal man has ever made.
~M. Acklam

Thank you for visiting love Catie Matthew and Pippi