Watching Danielle Jacob’s recent posting on You Tube of a meltdown in which she self-harms and her dog Samson comforts her was a bitter sweet viewing.
Bitter because it shows what so many of us on the spectrum go through behind closed doors – the despair and pain of our locked in worlds where it is often impossible to reach out and where we turn in and hurt ourselves because there is nowhere else for the feeling to go. But the sweetness of the dog’s intervention made it a redemptive viewing in many ways. Watching Samson, the Rottweiler, trying to intervene, to stop the self-harm, to comfort his owner was a lesson in how it can be done.
Samson typifies what makes animals so special – he does not intervene with reasoning (pointless at this stage anyway), with pleading or restraint, nor does he ignore it and walk away. He persists, he stays with his owner, lets her know that he is not giving up on her even though she may at this point have given up on herself. He is there for her, bringing a safe warm presence into a broken place. He reaches across the despair and hurt but doesn’t try to control it. He is in there with her for as long as it takes and he wins her round as she accepts his presence and reaches out to hug him.
The video is going viral and lots of people have commented on Danielle’s courage in posting it. What it also shows is just how very important animals can be to those of us with autism and what a real hero Samson is.
Danielle told BuzzFeed News that she got Samson, a 4-year-old rottweiler, from HALO animal rescue in Phoenix and as a result of her training which can be found on her YouTube Channel, Samson has passed his CGC (Canine Good Citizen) and CGCA (Canine Community) tests and PAT (Public Access Test). Danielle says,
“I immediately began training him for service work for Asperger’s syndrome, PTSD, TBI, and anxiety disorder. He alerts to meltdowns, anger, depressive episodes, flashbacks and nightmares, stimming, provides balance and counterbalance, and alerts to panic attacks.”