The Real Story

A photo documenting a poodle hugging a little boy is quite spectacular. It could so easily have vanished the moment I lifted the camera to my face. The poodle, still a puppy, and the child, physically diminutive, easily passing as a toddler, could instantly have been cued to scramble back to “normal” life, chasing throughout the house, tormenting each other with stolen toys.

Instead, they continued to sit. Perfectly still. The magnificent creature, master of unconditional love, deliberately wrapping his leg around the tiny, vulnerable body, pulling the child into a tender embrace.

As amazing and beautiful as that moment was, the real story is even more so.

The boy, my son, is hugging the poodle back. As intentionally as the foreleg is wrapped around my son, my son has, with equal intent, leaned his weight against the dog, trusting he’ll be supported. His tiny arms firmly grip the soft, curly body, while he tenderly whispers, “I love you, Beau. You are my best friend.”

All this from a child gripped by Autism.

A child who, when adopted at 11-mths of age, screamed at eardrum-splitting levels at the slightest possibility of being held in our arms, violently wiggling out of our grasp, commando-crawling in search of any hard surface – wall, chair leg, kitchen cabinets – in order to smash his face. Other times, in complete silence, he’d rake his fingernails down his face creating long, bloody tracks. Other times, without warning, he’d pinch chunks of flesh from his face, leaving small craters oozing blood.

A child who, for the next 3 years, when softly touched, desperately tried to rub the skin off his body using repetitive circular patterns, fighting us off if we tried to interrupt the process.

A child who didn’t speak until four years of age, long after “normal” development phases, instead communicating “No!”, painfully head-butting us.

Yet, there he was. Curled against some of the softest puppy hair imaginable, tolerating its touch on his skin; speaking heartfelt words of endearment; craving physical contact and affection.

Repetitive motions, nonsensical babbling, constant swirling and twirling motions held at bay, for a moment of calm, peace, and love.

There is the real story.

  1. Absolutely beautiful. It is a real honor to know and pray for you.

    God has given you a real gift…thank you for sharing.
    — Lillian    Dec 15, 02:37 PM    #
  2. This is so touching. I forwarded your link to a friend with an autistic child. Thanks for your story.

    — yooch24    Mar 23, 10:10 PM    #
  3. The picture alone brought tears to my eyes, and the real story is even more touching. I love this, thanks for sharing.

    — Alyssa    Apr 1, 12:11 AM    #
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