Vicker- our precious gift
Written by Adri van Staden
Luan was diagnosed with Autism at the age of three. Although I was heart broken, I felt a sense of relief knowing that his erratic behaviour could be explained. We had been to countless doctors and finally we had a plan to move forward.
Life with Luan was challenging. During the first eight years of his life, I didn’t have one proper night’s rest. He was very attached to me and insisted on sleeping next to me so he could feel my presence.
Although Luan was enrolled in kindergarten, he refused to attend unless his grandmother accompanied him. He also didn’t pay much attention to the other children or toys and preferred his own company. Our days were filled with visits to the occupational therapist and doing various stimulation exercises. I also had to brush Luan’s body on a daily basis in an effort to address his tactile sensitivity.
Luan required my undivided attention and constant care. The pressure to be there for him was immense and my own health started to suffer because of it. I was close to breaking point.
I came across a television programme about the work of Autism Support Dogs and was amazed at the difference they make in the lives of their owners. Suddenly, there was a glimmer of hope; a light at the end of the tunnel. Knowing that help was available gave me renewed strength. I wanted to know more and over the course of the next few weeks, spent my time conducting research.
With much excitement, I contacted S A Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind and applied for an Autism Support Dog for Luan. Because of the high demand for these wonderful dogs, we had to wait for the perfect match and in December 2016, we received a phone call that would change our lives forever. It had been three years since we submitted our application and finally there was a suitable dog available. I couldn’t stop myself from crying tears of absolute joy!
When Luan met Vicker, a black Labrador Retriever male, it was love at first sight. He was infatuated with him and couldn’t stop touching Vicker. Seeing them together in that moment, I knew that our lives would forever be changed.
It has been a year since Vicker became a part of our lives and the two of them are inseparable. Vicker is Luan’s shadow and follows him wherever he goes. Although Vicker has his own perfectly comfortable bed, he prefers settling down next to Luan.
Luan attends Carpe Diem school and Vicker accompanies him every day. The teachers and other children have been extremely understanding and loving towards him and shower him with loads of love and attention. Vicker enjoys participating in the activities at school. When Luan rides his bicycle, he happily joins in the fun and runs next to him. When Luan jumps on the trampoline, he jumps along. A Wednesday is Vicker’s favourite day at school. The children get to make delicious eats and Vicker never comes home without a treat! Since he has joined our family, we have seen a drastic improvement in Luan’s frame of mind. Vicker knows just what to do when Luan gets upset. He’ll give him a doggy kiss on his hand or put his paw on Luan’s lap, achieving a miracle!
Not only has Vicker changed and enriched Luan’s life, his presence has also had a positive impact on our family. Outings to the shopping centre or restaurants were quite challenging before but with Vicker by Luan’s side, I am less stressed and Luan is more self-assured.
We are excited to be celebrating our first Christmas with Vicker this year. He is the most precious gift our family could ever have received and we look forward to having him join the family festivities!