This is Beau (pronounced “Bo”, Tony added the French spelling). Beau Becker II to be exact. (Beau Becker I was our black lab before we had kids, so Tony thought it was logical to name him Beau Becker II)
We got him in Feb ’09, after 3 years of working with a behavioral therapist. You see, Tony had such a phobic fear of dogs, that it was truly jeopardizing his quality of life. He wouldn’t go outside, or even get out of the car until the garage door was shut. For some reason, he had developed this intense fear over the years. He wouldn’t walk in the neighborhood and anytime he ran into a dog, it set him back for months – behaviorally. It was incredibly stressful on all of us. We avoided dogs at all costs. In fact, the last time I brought him to Great Clips, prior to getting Beau, Tony had a complete, fearful meltdown in the salon in front of a lobby full of parents and kids. Someone was outside with a dog (who was on a leash), but he was so scared that he started screaming. Here was this almost 6′, 190lb young man, scaring even the dog.
Through a small miracle of people, patience, methodical and intentional conversations about “our dog”, Tony started to come around. We talked about “our dog” just about every day and posted pictures on the ‘fridge. We manifested it. At night, when I’d tuck Tony in, we’d talk about dog names and look at pictures of our old dogs (Beau and Buddy) that Dave and I had when we were first married. We eventually fenced in our back yard so that we’d be ready for a dog — and mostly so that Tony would feel brave enough to go outside again. I can remember the day the fence was finished. I called Dave literally crying that Tony was outside, walking the perimeters of the fence and singing a song. A neighbor even called and said “it’s so great to see Tony outside!”
After all our hard work, I fell upon a website one day while researching ‘therapy dogs’ online. Not only was there a 5 year waiting list for an autism-trained dog, but they were wildly expensive. I found a breeder in southern MN that had yellow labs — they were white in color — and they were going to be ready in 2 weeks. It was early February, but we decided to jump in. Now was the time!
In the next two weeks we prepared Tony for the dog. We bought his kennel, food dishes, dog food, toys, and leash. We let Tony name him. 🙂 On the actual day of pick up, Tony was pacing nervously in the kitchen before we left. I said “are you ready, Tony?” and he said “Sure. Are you ready, Mommy?” Tears filled my eyes. Another breakthrough. An actual conversation about a subject that we had worked on for quite a few years. We both took a big breath and we all got in the car.
My youngest son, Joey and I actually picked Beau out of the litter. He was the chubbiest one and the naughtiest one. Loved that! We knew he would be playful yet trainable. And we wanted a big dog — a weighted blanket — so he could someday sleep with Tony in his bed.
Beau cried all the way home. Not even a mile down the road, Tony said “OK! You can take him back to the farm now!” We all gasped. “No, Tony. We are his family now. I’m his Mommy and you are his brother. Beau is going home.” So Tony put on his headphones and kept looking back at Beau giggling. For the next few weeks we heard Tony sing “You’re my brother” or “I miss my Mommy”, or “You’re so naughty, Beau” — he’d sing them over and over to the dog.
Beau grew into a 100 lb lab – just like we wanted. He’s been a complete joy to have around. Tony and Beau are inseparable, as are Joey and Beau. The dog didn’t even know his fate, yet he took to Tony’s disability like it was second nature. He protects Tony, responds to Tony, sits outside Tony’s room when he’s having a tough time, and barks a “special” bark when Tony leaves the house. It’s like having an extra set of eyes, which is a huge help to all of us.
We call Tony and Beau our “two toddlers”. And they can get into a lot of trouble together! But it’s a very special bond that, just a year ago, we didn’t think was possible. So I’ll put up with all the dog hair, the paw prints, the chewed up blankets and socks and additional work it takes to have him… cuz we love our Beau and can’t imagine our family without him.