Bandit: Week 1 – Service Dog Files

8 08 2020

It’s been almost a week since we said good bye to Finlay and Hello to Bandit. Here are some updates, because people are asking for them 😀

It’s kind of in journal form. I’m not sure if I’m going to do weekly, or more frequent recaps, but we’re starting with the weekly this time.

Day 1:

Poor JJ is going through all the names to get to Bandit lol. Grady, Finlay (the other dogs) and Gambit (the gecko) before finally getting to Bandit. And little brother is making himself at home with Bandit 😀

I think his nickname might be Bam Bam. It’s easier for JJ to say. And just like that, Bandit was prancing around outside that night ❤️

Later that night, Little Brother was walking around the house calling out for Finlay. We had to remind him that Fin wasn’t here, but Bandit was. During that time, Bandit and J were playing a game. J called Bandit’s name and Bandit ran to find him. Then J gave him a treat. They kept it up for a hot minute.

Bandit slept in our room, so I could see how he did being in a new place.

Day 2:

Diploma Day for our Senior and Bandit went with us. It was his first time in the Jolly Roger (our big 19.5 foot long van). He did great!

Bandit in the Van

He also did great in the school and helped keep JJ focused and in place by us.

JJ and Bandit for Alta's Graduation

He was spoiled by all the kids today, and Paul. He’s so soaking up all the love right now. Which is great, because tomorrow, we tether him to JJ and they both get to try and figure out how to work with each other. Bandit is great but he’s used to grown ups – they’re the ones that have been training him, and J…It’s hard to say how involved he’ll be.

Also, Bandit BROUGHT a toy to J so they could play! It was awesome!

Little Brother came over to me and said: Finlay’s not here because Bandit’s here. I want to play with Finlay but I can’t. So I’ll play with Bandit.

So sweet. (Little Brother is 4yo and ADORES dogs and is also autistic).

When JJ got up to go potty before bed, Bandit was watching him. THIS is what we need to see from him so we can see if he’s transferring his learning to a little kid 🙂


Day 3:

Today was four hours of ABA therapy at home, voting, and speech therapy. We also tethered the boys in training 🙂 JJ and Bandit playing Yahtzee

JJ and Bandit watching TV 2

This is during therapy. Bandit did a GREAT job laying down by J while he worked with his therapists 🙂 Bandit still wants to follow me and keep an eye on me, but I’m redirecting him to J and letting J do the majority of the treats. I think they’re both starting to figure this out ❤️

I took Bandit to vote with us, because one of my voting age kids often needs wheel chair assistance and I wanted to see how he did next to a wheel chair.

He did awesome 🙂

At speech therapy later, Bandit kept staring out the window of the therapy room trying to find me while J was in with his therapist. So, we need to do a lot of the “Where’s JJ” game to help him focus on JJ. But as my friend at Paws 4 Autism pointed out, it can come in handy if we can’t find JJ. It’s scarily common for kids with autism to “elope,” whether that’s running away, wandering away, or being left behind because they’re not paying attention, these guys are at such a high risk. JJ’s brain doesn’t recognize danger, so having another way to search for him if that happens is an added layer of relief.

When JJ and Bandit came out of the therapy room, I was mauled in the nicest, happiest, most excited way possible by Bandit. I was sitting down which made it much easier lol. But he calmed pretty quickly and laid down when I asked him to. And later, at home, Paul got an exuberant Bandit hug too! He’s a snuggler!

Day 4:

Squee! Bandit and JJ just sat on the floor for a good 20 mins while we had family reading time and Bandit just hung out while JJ pet him 😀

When J got up and went to the bathroom, Bandit ran after him to see where he was going and what he was doing. He checked on him a second time, too ❤️

Day 5:

I’m starting to transition Bandit over to sleeping in JJ’s room. That’s where his dog will sleep and Bandit needs to practice sleeping in a kid’s room. We also need to see if having a dog in there will keep JJ awake or not. I’m not exaggerating when I say a piece of hair can hold my son’s attention enough to keep him awake if he doesn’t want to go to sleep, even with medicines.

The both did a fantastic job!

JJ and Bandit BedtimeJJ and Bandit Bedtime 2

He eventually wanted out, so we let him out, but we’ll still keep trying. I don’t want to create any aversive situations so I’m trying to follow the dog’s lead, too. But so far, he’s not quite diggin’ it, but we’ll keep trying a little at a time.

Day 6:

Bandit AND JJ played an awesome game of, “Where’s JJ?” today. Usually JJ has a hard time recalling Bandit’s name quickly, but not today 😀 J was using the treats but I wasn’t during this game and Bandit definitely preferred JJ lol

Before bed, the boys hung out on the floor watching shark week.

JJ and Bandit watching TV

JJ’s NEVER been this comfortable with a dog before. I’ve been worried about how well he’d do with a dog. Would he interact? Would he be able to do it appropriately? I figured he’d want to, but want doesn’t always translate into being able to. I think tethering them works just as much for JJ as it does for Bandit.

Also tonight, I watched this dog back up to the couch and get on the couch BACK legs first! This is a dog of many talents lol.


We’ve been hanging out. We tried playing a game of ball (where JJ ROLLS the ball) but instead, he got wound up and started throwing the ball and I don’t know if he was even paying attention to Bandit anymore. So we had to stop the game. Unfortunately, when JJ gets wound up so much, it’s VERY hard for him to self regulate and come back down. His brain disengages – the executive functioning shuts down – and there’s no thought to actions. He was so wound up this morning, he doesn’t even remember throwing the ball, but I SAW him, so I know it happened. And it took some time to get his brain and body settled enough that he wasn’t going to get himself into trouble.

But what I learned today, gives me some hope. The pups are taught the command “Settle” and they lay across laps, feet, bodies – whatever’s comfortable for their person, and the deep pressure from the gentle weight helps sooth the person. If we can get this to work for JJ, this could be a game changer for us. Right now, we have to work from the angle of not winding him up, instead of letting him get crazy and then calming him down (since he doesn’t calm easily). But if we have a way to calm him, especially quickly and in the moment, my son has more freedom to do more things that neurotypical kids do. And if that’s the case, then all the work and time, all the late nights and weekends spent working on the fundraising…it makes it worth it.

You guys, a DOG. A dog could allow my son to experience things that most of us take for granted. It can give him more freedom than I hoped for which is why we do the hard things.

Thanks for stopping by!


As always, if you’d like to read more about JJ, feel free to go to his fundraising page to read his story. If you want to make a donation, that would be fantastic. If you want to help us get the word out by helping us share his story, we’re grateful for that, too.

JJ’s Story at Paws 4 Autism



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