They say that good things come to those who wait. And for the family of seven-year-old Collin Germundson of Detroit Lakes, Minn., their patience has been rewarded. The family first applied to Can Do Canines for an assistance dog in 2010, but Collin was only recently paired with Autism Assist Dog Thor.
Diagnosed with autism, Collin can get easily frustrated. He will lie on the floor and cry or start to throw things. He has difficulty finding the words to describe his feelings and as a result acts out. One of the things that comforts Collin are dogs—he even carries a stuffed toy dog with him wherever he goes.
This is where Thor comes in. Thor is a two-year-old, smooth coat collie who loves squeaky toys and being with “his people” (a trait of herding dogs).
“He grew on me,” says Amanda, Collin’s mother. “I’d never heard anything about collies, but Thor is the best!”
Thanks to Thor, Collin is able to more easily visit places like the doctor’s office or the store. He helps keep Collin calm in public, reassuring him and preventing him from bolting away.
“It’s nice to be able to go out and not worry about Collin wandering or bolting away,” Amanda says. “He used to run out of the building during therapy, but with Thor he just sits in the chair and remains there.”
In addition to soothing Collin, Thor helps him engage with others.
“He helps with social interactions,” Amanda says. “We went to the store and a woman said to him, ‘Oh, you have such a nice looking dog.’ She started a conversation with him—not with me—which is good, because Collin needs help with socialization.”
Thor was trained in Can Do Canines Prison Puppy Program and his inmate trainers found his personality very different from the Labradors they were used to working with. Training a collie can involve utilizing creative training styles, and they enjoyed the opportunity to try out different methods.
One inmate trainer wrote, “Thor is a wonderful dog, and very smart. I chose to help with this program because it makes me feel good knowing that the small part I put into these dogs will potentially save lives many times over. I feel lucky to have been given the opportunity to have been put into these dogs’ lives.”
Thor has become a celebrity with the other children in Collin’s school. When the school bus drops Collin off, his classmates can see him from the bus.
“When he stands in the window to watch the school bus, the kids all say, ‘There’s Thor!’” says Amanda.
To the volunteers who helped raise Thor, Amanda extends her deepest thanks and wishes she could personally hug them all. To the donors who helped bring Thor into their life, Amanda says …
“Without you, I wouldn’t have this peace of mind—this big, fuzzy, bundle of joy. I can’t imagine our lives without him.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Raiser: Sandy and Jeff Essen
Foster-home providers (3 months or more): Alicia Holicky
Prisons: Inmate Handlers at the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Faribault
All Prison Furlough Families
Name-A-Puppy Donor: Pam Blomgren
Breeder Donor: Amy Ross