This handsome boy here is Tuco (Too-co):
He’s our Labrador. Giving him an ‘original’ name taught us a valuable lesson before we were able to inflict our stupid name ideas on any human children we had. Tuco is named after the best ever film character in existence, played by Eli Wallach in ‘The Good, The Bad and the Ugly’. Not the drug baron from ‘Breaking Bad’.
When I’m out with them both and I’m harping on about Owen’s Autism to some poor dog walker who only wanted some fresh air, I’m often met with the following comment:
Wow! He must be fantastic with Owen! He’s a labrador after all.
Not exactly. He tolerates Owen. He won’t actively seek out Owen’s company. But he puts up with a lot of being ‘fixed’ with plastic tools and being fed his kibble one tiny piece at a time.
But maybe the benefit of having Tuco around Owen is something that I don’t recognise because it’s never been any different? I’ve had Tuco for six and a half years. He wasn’t that impressed when we brought Owen home but he wasn’t too bothered either.
Gretchen Carlisle completed a study about the link between Autistic children and pets. She found that having any sort of pet at home opens up social opportunities for children which in turn, gives children with Autism a chance to engage and talk about something they know about.
Owen would be more likely to talk to somebody about Tuco if they approached him which happens quite a lot seeing as he’s a handsome old beast (Tuco that is). Owen absolutely adores him.
She says that pets act as ‘social lubricants’ for children with Autism. What’s brilliant is that it means that other children will come over and initiate conversation about Tuco which is what Owen needs. It also gives him lots of confidence around other dogs.
He loves to feed, walk, chase and shout commands at Tuco and he does have a lot of speech that involves Tuco in some way:
Tuco is hungry!
Tuco, sit! Paw!
Admittedly, it would have been really interesting to see how introducing a dog to the family after Owen was born could have affected him. But then, a puppy and Owen is a combination that nightmares are made of.
The study found that the best pets for children with Autism are small dogs.
‘The Social Skills and Attachment to Dogs of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder’ was published in theJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.