I have a dog, his name is Benji and he is not like any other dog. If you’ve read the title, you’ve probably figured out that he is a service dog. He was trained for a long period time by professionals and he was trained specifically for me.
When I decided that I was going to switch schools and move across the country, I decided this was the moment that I needed a service dog. I had wanted one for a long time, but this is where the need came in that if I wanted to do this- I couldn’t do this alone. I needed someone like Benji. So, my mother helped me find Benji.
Benji is a rescue and was one of the smaller dogs in training. So, he was a misfit, just like me. When we met, it was love at first sight. There was an instant connection. Since that moment, he has not left my side.
Somedays I see a dog who makes me laugh. He is so happy to just chase a ball or chew on a piece of rope. I watch him want to chase squirrels and curl into my lap when he is scared. In a lot of ways, he is like any other dog.
Then there are the days that I need him. He will go from this playful running and jumping attitude to a very serious one in a second. He runs to my side before I even know why and he looks at me with these big eyes and sits staring at me. He knows that I’ve gotten upset and am about to go into a sensory overload or a meltdown or whatever autism curve ball is being thrown right at my gut. He waits until I give him permission and he crawls into my lap or hugs me and we sit and ride the wave. He waits until the emotions roll over my head and I can swim to the surface and breath again. He waits patiently with me and lets me know that I’m not alone.
This dog is a superhero. He has saved me in more ways than I could imagine. When we go to new places and I’m nervous, he lets me know that we are going to explore together. If we get lost, we do it together. If we find buried treasure, we do it together. When I walk, he pokes his nose against the back of my leg to let me know he is still there. When I’m in class and he sits under my desk, he rests his chin on my knee to remind me he is still there. He lets me know a friend is coming before they are even in sight.
Every night we let the world fade away together and every morning we embrace the new challenges with excitement and huge need to run outside and use the bathroom.
I wish everyone understood what service dogs can do, but not everyone does. So we find people who want to fight. Who don’t understand Benji is a superhero and won’t let him do the things he needs to do. It’s not always easy to have Benji at my side when the world sees him as an animal, not different than the rodents or birds that live in the wild. Everything is made easier when I know that I get to be a sidekick to a superhero.
The Canine Spectrum Documentary created by Billy Butler and Isabel Elvira.