My name is Mac.
I’m a young adult who is passionate about music, Lego and mental health/disability advocacy. In my early teens, I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. This newfound understanding brought a lot of answers to myself and family. This diagnosis allowed us to finally understand why I felt so disconnected from the world.
Growing up through a variety of therapies the focus was on my physical delays of late walking, poor balance and other gross and fine motor challenges. We also focused on my severe anxiety and sensitivities to outside stimuli such as noise and texture. As I got older the environment around me became more demanding. Socially, the disparity between myself and my peers became increasingly apparent.
Following my diagnosis of autism I continued work with a number of therapists and began participation in social groups. Unfortunately, none of these groups met my needs and were repeatedly not a good fit.
Through a lot of research and discussion with my medical team, the idea of an autism service dog was discussed. Growing up, I was afraid of pretty much anything that had more legs than me. After a lot of exposure and work with a therapy dog, I was able to work through my fear and the positive impact dogs had on me became clear. While I understood a service dog would not be a bandaid fix, my team and I predicted having a service dog would make a major difference in my life. We were right.
Throughout all of this, my younger sister was facing significant mental health challenges. We lost her to suicide. During this time I had increasingly low motivation, and was beginning to slip into depressive tendencies.
It was time for a change.
The challenge we ran into was most service dog organizations that provided autism service dogs only provided them to children. The difference in an autism service dog for me vs a child is I am the primary handler. Most service dogs for children, the parent is the primary handler while the dog serves the child. I manage my service dog entirely on my own in every way, including on-going training, day to day care, budgeting, etc.
When I discovered MSAR it seemed almost too good to be true. They were willing to provide me with a trained service dog with no age restrictions. This service dog was not only trained to assist with my autism, but also mobility challenges I face due to spinal fusion. My experience has been amazing!
Compared to some organizations, with MSAR, when you are paired with your dog you aren’t just told to take it and go. Training runs at your pace, the intake and pairing processes are in depth, and ensure the dog you are paired with meets your needs. There is no such thing as a “cookie cutter” dog with MSAR.
Cue Veda! Veda is part of the MSAR Canadian Israeli partnership. In addition to providing me with built in routines, purpose and accountability, Veda is trained to mitigate the challenges I face. These challenges include difficulty with sensory processing, emotional regulation, social situations, nightmares and bending down. Some of the tasks she performs include deep pressure stimulation, tactile grounding, personal space expansion, sleep assistance, picking up dropped items, assisting with laundry and more.
Having Veda by my side has been absolutely life changing! Not only am I now able to function, travel, work and play without constant burnout and dysregulation.
Through MSAR, I have also made some of my closest friends. When you sign up with MSAR, you are not just signing up for a dog, you are joining a community that has your back, and is there to support you every step of the way.