Monday, March 30, 2009

California Springtime

Forgive me bloggers for I have been distracted.  It's been two weeks since my last post and and in that short time spring has hit northern California in full force.

A weekend outing to Sunol Regional Wilderness Park took our breath away yesterday as we devoured the sights and smells of the season.  Wildflowers dot the hillsides ...

... and huge swarms of butterflies fill the sky.  (I'm not exaggerating when I describe these swarms like small butterfly blizzards!  If I was a better photog I would have captured the masses but you'll have to settle for this one little guy that stopped for a breather on a blossom near me.)

Of course, I would have loved to end this post with nothing but pix of the bucolic scenes of the Nor Cal mountains in spring but with the fragrant comes the pungent.  Yes, the wonder dog managed to stumble upon a fresh cow pie and promptly started break dancing upon it.

What is it with dogs and excrement?  Charlie is truly a brilliant specimen but I am yet to meet a dog that does not possess an unrestrained desire to throw its body into the nearest mound of dung.   Instinct?  I don't know. Vile?  Unequivocally.    

I must admit that Charlie did show some signs of regret.  It seemed that after he'd successfully covered himself in steamy cow poo,  he discovered his own offensiveness and began to frantically roll on the trail in what appeared to be a desperate attempt to purge himself of his newly acquired odor.

Fortunately, this particular hike takes us past a barn with water so Chuck got a quick spritz and we were back on track smelling nothing but the flowers.

Monday, March 16, 2009


There's simply no denying Charlie's magic.   His impact on Tim is more and more evident every day.  We've all been charmed by him and when we take him out in public wearing his North Star "clothes" we are inundated with inquiries about him and his work with Tim.  But sometimes the thing I appreciate most about Charlie isn't what the North Star team has trained him to do for Tim.

This weekend was wonderfully low key with nothing but some local exploring, a great local hike (with Wendy the Trainer and her crew), and a Sunday spent assembling an Indiana Jones Lego set.   Charlie accompanied us for almost everything (we left him home during an exploration of San Francisco) and true to form, he expressed interest in anything that we happened to be doing.

On Sunday, as I watched my autistic son manipulating hundreds of microscopic lego pieces with his dad to his right and his dog to his left, I was struck by just how "normal" this looked.  A kid on a rainy afternoon playing with some legos.  I know, we're not talking Norman Rockwell here but just a few years ago this was a scene I could barely imagine.    

It's this feeling of "normalcy" that Charlie creates for us that I relish.  When Tim is with Charlie he's just a boy with his dog whether he's playing on the trampoline, ...

... watching airplanes at the local airport, ... 

... going for a good long walk ...

... or building Legos on a rainy day.  Tim always wants Charlie with him and Charlie doesn't seem to care what the chosen activity might be so long as he gets to be there, tagging along with Tim.   No judgment.  No sympathy.  No "A Club."  Just a boy and his dog.  Normal.  

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Northern California has been getting some LONG overdue rain this spring and I hate to admit that there have been more than a few days recently where Charlie's outside time has been limited to rather quick romps in our yard while Tim and I stand shivering on the patio waiting for him to do his business.

About a week ago we were treated to the most lovely rainbow that seemed to arc across the entire sky.  I ran to get my camera and fired off just a few shots before we could stand the cold no longer.   When I finally had a chance to review my shots I realized I had captured a photographic metaphor.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Guardian Dog

One of Charlie's most coveted emerging skills has been his seemingly instinctive practice of tending to Tim whenever he senses a threat or danger.   In the last few weeks we've seen an extension of that instinctive behavior to include a concern for Tim's well being.

We'd had a few consecutive rainy weekends and were all feeling a little cooped up when we finally got a little creative and turned our garage into a skating rink for Tim and his new skates. 
Everything was perfect except for the fact that Charlie desperately wanted to be a part of the action and would not leave Tim's side once those little skates were secured.   I originally banished Charlie to the house but Tim would have no part of that.  So I quickly retreated, apologized to Chuck and invited him back out to the garage.  The only new rule was that he had to stay in his crate while Tim skated.  

Tim was satisfied with our new accord and happily directed Charlie to his crate.  Charlie complied and watched intently as Tim stumbled and rolled around the garage.

I'm not sure what was going through Charlie's head that day as he remained so laser focused on Tim but he seemed to sense the risk involved with the activity and was hyper-alert as long as those skates were on Tim's feet.  In fact, the only time that Charlie broke from his sit-stay position was when Tim fell.

As soon as Tim hit the ground, Charlie was out of his crate and at Tim's side.    It was like he was checking him out himself to make sure his little buddy was unscathed.  Then once Tim laughed and reacted to him, Charlie relaxed and settled in next to him on the garage floor.

Once again the Wonder-Dog rises to the occasion.  I'm not sure if this behavior is a testament to the breed, the excellent bloodlines, or just the magic of our beloved Charlie.  Whatever it is, I'm more thankful every day for all the Charlie does for Tim.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Great Advice for a Happy, Healthy Dog

Melissa Mitchell, proud companion to Bastien the Service Dog, recently posted a most useful article about maintaining your service dog.   Great advice both for Service Dogs and companion dogs.  Check it out here.  (Oh, and thanks to Melissa for allowing me to link it!)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Service Beyond Autism

One of the best parts about writing this blog has been meeting ("virtually") so many folks interested in Charlie and his magical influence on Tim.  Of course many of these folks are members of the A Club and I've enjoyed countless exchanges with other club members about the joys and frustrations of membership.  

More surprising has been the vast number of  "non-members" who know little or nothing about Autism but simply share an interest in service dogs and are eager to support us in our journey with Charlie.  (If you want to read some inspiring stories about incredible service dogs, check out Cruisin With Cricket and  A Service Dogs Journey )

Then a few weeks ago I "met" a woman who is awaiting the arrival of her daughter's service dog and I was reminded that North Star provides dogs to children of varying abilities, including those who may not have autism.   

I've been following her blog with interest largely because it tells the story of another North Star placement but it was this poignant post that really got me.   This lovely woman is a member of a different club - one with many of the same joys and frustrations that we in the A Club share.   After reading about her family, I am completely inspired by her commitment and determination to make a life for her child rife with experience and love.   Hers is a story that I am certain will continue to inspire and I look forward to devouring every forthcoming detail.  

(**UPDATE:  Since I originally drafted this, a North Star litter was born and one of the new born pups will be going to this sweet girl!)