I recently attended a party, comprised of numerous social workers that I have not seen for a while. I was asked what I was up besides fostering dogs, and after my long silence and the, you can't be as dumb as you look right now, look, I finally mumbled, "ummm, nothing." I received quite a few quizzical, disappointed looks right before I stumbled on a social worker gold mine by simply stating that I have an autistic dog. The disappointed looks quickly turned into keen, borderline impressed reactions and the questions started coming. I quickly went from party dud to holding court. I had no idea that social workers would find an autistic dog so interesting until I realized that that was the same line that sucked me into this whole dog and pony show in the beginning. After fielding various questions, I realized that it would be a slam dunk to get him adopted if we attended social work conferences. I can get the free day-old danishes, while Alvin loops himself into the hearts of his future adoring, social work fans. That group of people seem to find the idea of having an autistic dog to be a good thing, and they are right.
I was asked a lot of questions about how his autism compares to the autistic children we have all worked with and known. In all seriousness, autism in dogs has some similarities, in the nearly OCD repetitive touch, abnormal reaction to noise, and issues with being touched, but there are many differences. I then remembered that I have two autistic teen male neighbors and I began to reflect on the behavior that I have seen them exhibit. They have grown up in the neighborhood and so I have seen them change and evolve since they were toddlers. I was thinking of their most prominent behaviors to compare to Alvin and I quickly realized that when it comes to autism, Alvin has nothing on those two, sweet boys. First, Alvin does not like to wear any article of clothing, although he was a sport and wore that utterly adorable bumblebee costume for his previous foster mom. One of the boys down the street did not like to wear anything either, with the exception of his mom's pantyhose that he stretched up to his chin and paraded around the neighborhood.......a boy needs to stay warm. For the most part, Alvin is considerate enough to leave my garbage and mail alone, whereas the boy would often arrive in the pantyhose to seize our mail and trash cans because he had a fixation with both. Alvin's only fixation is my mom's legs. Alvin is afraid of being up on anything off the ground, whereas one of the boy's could often be found on the roof of his house, while wearing nothing but the pantyhose. As I went down the list of behaviors, I realized that Alvin's autism is a breeze. To error on the side of caution, I'm not letting him him hang with either one of the boys due to his propensity to imitate behaviors, and my firm belief that I am the only one in this house that should be wearing pantyhose......well, except for that ex-boyfriend of mine (kidding). When realizing how much easier autistism is in dogs, holding an Alvin adoption event at a social work conference is sure to be an easy sell with that crowd. Shoot, we may have them standing in line.