On the first day of training camp we heard the words that would come to mean everything to us. Jo said “one thing we can tell you for sure is that in a month’s time, yesterday, last month and last year will seem like a distant memory. You will forget how bad it was”. After 10 years of raising a child with so many debilitating barriers in his world, these words meant everything to us.
Rewind 5 years, and Luc was just diagnosed with severe autism, ADHD, intellectual disability and he had severe self-injurious behaviours. Even at 5 years old, I could no longer take him out by myself, he was too strong for me, too unpredictable. When his dad was at work, his sisters and I bunkered down at home and dealt with Luc’s meltdowns the best we could. I will never be able to erase from my mind of the image of my then 8 year old daughter Amelie, helping me clean Luc’s blood off the walls before her dad walked in from work each day. We were stretched as a family, we were exhausted and isolated and we felt helpless and abandoned by any form of normality. It was at this point in our lives that Stephane saw a story on TV about the help a mother received for her twin boys in the form of a Righteous Pup. It was then that he said “we are going to get an assistance dog for Luc”. Ella arrived 5 years later when Luc was 10 and our lives changed forever.
Fast forward 6 years and we have forgotten how bad it used to be. Those days are a distant memory just like Jo promised they would be. Luc is living his best life ever. We are living our best lives ever. Ella has been nothing short of life changing – a miracle from the moment she met Luc on that cold July day in 2012. I say ‘from the moment she met Luc’ intentionally. Because she sought him out that day. She knew who he was and knew the job she was there to do. Luc existed around her without fully looking at her, he sensed her, he touched her, he smelt her but I’m not sure that he was fully aware of the force that was taking over him when he lay down with her on the floor that first time, and listened to her heart beat. That heart beat has come to be his lifeline. He counts on her every day – just to be. Her love for him is unconditional. We often joke that even after all these years, our daughters can often surprise her. Yet with all of his sounds, behaviours and moods, Ella knows Luc better than anyone and she is right there beside him for all of it. She is unwavering and fearless. She is more empathetic than any form of human life. She just gets him and their bond is like no other.
Now, at almost 16, Luc rarely bangs his head. He can easily sit in a restaurant with us and have a meal. He welcomes friends into our home and enjoys their company. He is kind to himself and to the people around him. He isn’t scared anymore of the sound of a lawn mower, or a drill or a car engine. He can help make a smoothie by pressing the button on the blender instead of smashing his head into a wall at the mere sight of it. He can go for walks. He can sit by the pool. He can lie on the couch and watch TV. There is no more blood to clean on the walls each day. There are playdates for his sisters. Our home is often full.
Our doctors said that Luc could only be helped with medication. They said a dog would make no difference – that it would just be a band aide, a momentary distraction. Ella is not a cure for Luc’s diagnosis, but she is without a doubt his best medicine and his only therapy.
Ella has come to mean everything to Luc and our family. She helps us to feel protected, safe and accepted. Where we used to be the family that people stared at because of the severe meltdowns, now we are the family that people stare at because of the enormous love and the blessed friendship of a boy called Luc and his best friend Ella.
We can help more kids like Luc and his family- please go MAD (make a difference) for the Heroes we serve Christmas by texting the word, MAD to 0437 371 371 and donate. Even a little will mean a lot.
Financial Institution: Bendigo Bank
Name of Account: Righteous Pups Australia Inc
Account No: 125 823 583