Making friends as a child can be a daunting task indeed. I can vividly remember the nerves I used to have when meeting new people, and the subsequent courage it would take for me to talk to them.
I can only imagine how difficult it is for a child with a condition like autism, one that makes socializing even more of a struggle.
Kainoa Neihaus is a young boy who knows what that’s like. In fact, Kainoa won’t even let his mom, Shanna, hug or dress him.
You can imagine, then, the pride and joy Shanna felt when she witnessed her son make his very first friend.
Making friends doesn’t come easy to Kainoa Neihaus, which is why it was an exceptionally special occasion when he and his mom travelled to Ohio from Japan to meet his service dog, Tornado.
A Golden Retriever, Tornado had been prepared to help Kainoa in any number of ways. In turn, Kainoa had waited two years for a dog to become available.
As posted to the 4PawsforAbility Facebook page: “I’m not sure why, but people still ask us why we place service dogs with children sometimes. Let me help you understand, from a momma who knows first hand:
“See this moment?
I’ve never experienced a moment like this.
“I thought about not sharing it for embarrassment of my ugly cry face, but i decided it’s too important not to share.
“This picture was taken near the end of the day after my autistic five year old was finally able to sit down with his new Service Dog Tornado. He flew across the entire ocean, stopped in multiple states, and uprooted his entire routine to travel the globe for this.
“He was so overwhelmed through the day that he had to leave to take a break for a couple hours before he could come back. This boy is the strongest child I have ever met; he has faced countless rude and ignorant adults and children who do not understand him, who have hurt him, and who have not valued him because he is different. This picture captures the face of a mother who saw her child, who she can’t hug, wash, dress, snuggle and touch freely lay on his new Service dog of his own free will, with a purposeful unspoken attachment.
“This is the face of a mom who has seen her son experience countless failed social interactions on the playground in an attempt to have a friend. Any friend. Any kind of connection. She has sat with her son while he has cried at night for months because he has no consistent connections outside of the family no matter how hard he tries and no matter what he works hard on in his Autism therapies.
“It doesn’t transfer to the natural occurring world for him. And now she is sitting behind her son silently watching this moment, with the air sucked from her lungs, and no words to say.
Holding her mouth and silently crying because she doesn’t want to distract him from the moment and break him away from a pure, honest, and truly fulfilling moment for her son-of his own free will. This is truly magic. Words cannot explain it.
“I have cried so many times for this boy, but this is the very first time I have cried for a reason like this.
“It’s new, it’s painful, it’s wonderful, and it’s grateful. I will always stand behind this boy (probably still crying ) but I am grateful that he will have Tornado to stand beside him. The 4 Paws magic is real. The wait is long, but this moment right here makes it worth every moment of waiting. It’s worth every fight for services for my son, every diagnosis, every new provider, every dollar spent, every paper filled out, every school meeting, every shed tear, every step forward, every step back, and every wonder of the unknown future. Some how because of this- because of Tornado- I know everything will be okay. ”
The importance of service dogs in the world cannot be understated, nor can the difference they make for people’s lives.
We’re so inspired by this particular story, and think it’s fantastic that Kainoa now has a friend to call his own.
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