America, and service dogs, run on Dunkin', and Zachary loves their hot cocoa! :)
This pic was taken mid-sentence as Zachary tried to convince me that it was okay for him to open a new box of Dunkin' K-cups so he could build a K-cup tower. If nothing else, he's persistent!
Shortly after the brief go-'round about the K-cups, a group of little ballerinas walked in and squealed with delight when they saw Twinkie. As their moms tried to stop them from running towards us, and I tried not to laugh, I asked them if they wanted to pat Twinkie. Hello...no-brainer! :) They were all super-excited to give her treats, too. (I was a rock-star if even for a moment and with someone else's kids. Hey, beggars can't be choosers, right??) Naturally, Twinkie, without any shame, accepted the constant chatter about how pretty and soft she was....as IF she needs anymore confidence.
This was such an amazing opportunity to raise awareness and educate the community about service dogs and the important role they play in the live's of those with disabilities...not just those who are visually or physically impaired. These two moms and their little one's were so interested in Twinkie and what she did! What I also loved is that these moms explained to their little ones what Twinkie did if I were answering another question and couldn't answer them myself. They, of course, were beyond impressed with how calm and well-behaved Twinkie was. I, frankly, nearly choked on my iced-tea when they said that and wanted to invite them over for dinner! LOL
Anyhoo, this was also an amazing social and language opportunity for Zachary as I had him introduce Twinkie and made sure he made eye-contact...which he did. Sometimes Zachary looks down or away when he's feeling anxious which very often happens in these types of social situations. Zachary also likes to tell people Twinkie is a Golden Retriever. :) While the moms and and girls asked what Twinkie did to help Zachary, I directed the questions I could to him and helped with the replies as needed. This is such an important component of appropriate social and language reciprocity because Twinkie is HIS service dog, and he should know what she does so he's able to actively participate in these inevitable conversations.
In response to somebody's question about what Twinkie does to help him, Zachary did make the one mom tear up to his answer of "love" when I prompted him with the fill-in of "When you're sad, Twinkie gives you a lot of ____." It was such a genuine and completely honest response. Zachary carried such confidence in his answer, and feelings, that he looked right at her when he said it. It made me tear up as well because this wasn't a rehearsed, rote response or part of a social story. Love, unconditional love, is exactly what Twinkie gives him, and he knows it.
This type of spontaneous social encounter is also what separates an Autism Assistance SD from other types of service dogs; Twinkie is a social bridge for Zachary and helps alleviate some of the stress and anxiety that he struggles with in these types of social situations. Twinkie's mere presence brings people, both big and small, to Zachary and helps him cross the bridge of social interaction with a little more confidence and a lot less anxiety.
Our collective job is complete for the day.
There's a reason why we're certified as a team.