Things to Consider Before Obtaining an Autism Service Dog

Written by Michelle O'Neil on April 26th, 2010


1) It costs money to fund raise and go to service dog training. 

We obtained Riley’s dog through an organization called 4 Paws for Ability. Through the generosity of friends, family, neighbors, blog readers and our community we raised 11 thousand dollars in order to obtain Jingle for Riley. Free dog for us, right? Hold up.

We also paid almost $2500 out of pocket for our ten day hotel stay during training, fund raising efforts, hall rental for the benefit concert held, food and door prizes,(though much was also donated), and postage and supplies for several mass mailings. The list goes on and on.

Many families fund raise for these additional expenses. We had the means, and people had already been so generous we felt we could not ask for more donations. But Jingle did not come “free” to us.

2) A service dog is still a dog. They are not robots. They are not slaves. They will not behave perfectly all the time, especially if you don’t continue to work with them.

3) It will take a while for your child’s dog to respect you and trust you, and mind you consistently. 

4) Positive praise always works better than negative, (you know, like with children).

5) People will give you unsolicited advice, about whether they think your child needs the dog or not, and later about what training methods you are using with the dog. A thick skin is required.

6) People will stop you endlessly to ask questions once you have your child’s dog. This is mostly cool, but some days you won’t feel like being the service dog ambassador. Some days you’ll wish you could just read your book while your children take dance lessons.

7)  You don’t own your child’s dog. Technically, Jingle is the proud property of 4 Paws for Ability. We must send in yearly paperwork, complete with vet check reports and proof we’ve actually been working her as a service animal. If Jingle gets lost, her microchip doesn’t give our #, they call 4 paws.

8) There is no guarantee your dog will be allowed in your child’s school and you might face a big legal battle if you decide to go that route. We opted to homeschool for this and other reasons. 

9) Most people we meet are loving,curious, accepting,welcoming and thrilled about service dogs.

10) You will have no idea how great it is, watching your child bond with their dog. We find out a lot about what’s going on in Riley’s mind, by listening to her speak in “Jingle’s” voice. They get closer every day. It’s a beautiful thing, and totally worth it.

Lots of kids are still waiting for their dogs. Read their stories here if you’d like to help.


PBS Documentary on Service Dogs

Written by Michelle O'Neil on April 20th, 2010

This looks to be fantastic. Thanks to Sally (one of our 4 Paws classmates) for sending me the link!


Premiers April 21. Watch the trailer here.

Check your local PBS listings for times/dates.


Two Girls on a Raft

Written by Michelle O'Neil on April 14th, 2010

At Girls on the Run the other day we talked with the girls about the importance of relaxing, and led them in a couple of different short meditation exercises.

After, the girls were given the opportunity to share what they visualized during meditation.

Riley said, “I visualized being on an indestructible raft with Jingle, floating down a peaceful river made of peanut butter. Not chocolate, because chocolate isn’t good for dogs.”

The raft had to be indestructable. The river had to be safe for Jingle. Once those two details were hammered out, they floated, peacefully, happily downstream.


Take a picture, it’ll last longer!

Written by Michelle O'Neil on April 5th, 2010
IMG_2573 by you.

This is Jingle’s unamused look, as I leave the house without her.

She’s staring me down through a screened door on our porch.

Seth lured her inside with a treat so I could escape without guilt.

Those eyes.

Stop staring at me Jingle!

I can’t take it!


Swiper No Swiping!

Written by Michelle O'Neil on April 1st, 2010

The other day I went down to the basement to attend to the laundry, and Jingle stole Seth’s cinnamon bun off a plate on the kitchen table.

Today on Animal Planet, we watched Stains the Dog do the same thing.

Somehow it is much funnier when Stains does it. Watch here. He seems to be actually “possessed” by the cupcake.

Jingle, don’t make me get a video camera and a talking collar!


Dirty Dog

Written by Michelle O'Neil on March 29th, 2010

Jingle has a lot of fun with her friend Gilda two doors down. They romp and play in Gilda’s big fenced in yard and she comes home happy and exhausted.

dirty dog

And in this weather, she also comes home dirty. Her paws are actually pure white under all that dirt.


That’s after being wiped off. It’s just caked on her. It looks like I might have to throw her in the tub.

dirty dog 2

Oh well.

The fun is worth it.

Sometimes life is messy.


Our Daily Wake Up Call

Written by Michelle O'Neil on March 24th, 2010

Every morning, at 7:00AM sharp, Jingle leaves Riley’s room and sits in the doorway to our bedroom. She then begins to scratch. I don’t for one second believe she has an itch each day at 7:00AM. She does this to make her collar, well, jingle, in order to wake us up.

We open our eyes and slap the bed, giving her a signal, it’s time. She can join us. She jumps up, and the kids soon follow. Jingle is not satisfied until she is sprawled across the whole bed (she’s a long dog) and has a part of her body touching each one of us, after which, she basks in praise.

“Good girl!”

“Such a good girl!”

“You’re so beautiful Jingle!”

“What a gooooooood dog!”

We all pet her and love her. Most mornings in our house start this way.

She may have to wear silly t-shirts from time to time but seriously, it ain’t bad being her.



Wag your tail if you’re Irish!

Written by Michelle O'Neil on March 17th, 2010


Comfort & Joy

Written by Michelle O'Neil on March 14th, 2010

Here is Jingle sporting her new tag from Taglines. Jen at Taglines was so generous she added an extra tag for Jingle’s harness. I’ll post pics of that one after I find a bigger key chain round thing-a-ma-jig. The metals parts of Jingles harness are really thick and I can’t get it on with the small ring.


You Toucha My Leash, I Breaka You Face

Written by Michelle O'Neil on March 5th, 2010


jing break faceTodd took Riley to clay class this week and there was trouble. She’d missed last week because Seth was home sick and I couldn’t bring him along with a sore throat.  So, alas, she was behind. She melted. Todd tried to soothe her all the while calling for Jingle, who had been previously given the down command on her mat. Jingle didn’t come. Todd couldn’t believe it. Jingle is very obedient. It’s a small room, but visibility is blocked due to a big table in the middle of it. Especially if you are on the floor. Finally Todd got up from the screaming Riley, looked over and noticed a little boy had hold of Jingle’s leash, and he wasn’t letting go.

Little kids WANT that leash. It happens all the time. If I have her in a down, out in public, Jingle is great. She listens. I don’t need to hold onto the leash, but kids constantly come up and try to take hold of it. They’ll take it and pull her off the down command! At best, it’s annoying. On a day when you need Jingle to work, it is maddening.

This little boy is a sweet kid, who really likes Jingle.

I’ve let him hold her leash in class before. 

New rules.

Live & learn.