Adopted Dog Helps Boy with Autism Thrive

Quirky, loving, energetic Annie Oakley is the best self-appointed therapy dog ever.

Lenore + Annie Oakley

An adopted pup brings joy, laughter and friendship to a boy with autism — and finds that her entire family loves her unconditionally, too.

"Who knew that a little pointy-eared, wacky-tailed pup that stands no taller than sixteen inches, steals all of our socks and farts when she sneezes would become the love of our life?"

Adopted Dog Annie

Who knew that a little pointy-eared, wacky-tailed pup that stands no taller than sixteen inches, steals all of our socks and farts when she sneezes would become the love of our life?

I had been volunteering at large animal adoption events for several years, all the while not having a pet of our own. We wanted to wait until our son Ralph was old enough to take an active part in taking care of a dog. Ralph is what we like to call “awesomely autistic,” and we are so very proud to be a happily neurodiverse family! We simply felt that it would be amazing if we could find a dog that could assist Ralph with things like being more active outdoors, making new friends, practicing his socialization skills, providing an anchor in order to avoid episodes of autistic eloping, and finding comfort during autistic meltdowns when overstimulated.

Adopted Dog Annie

Little did we know that little Annie would zoomie herself into our lives and quickly become far more than just a pet. Annie may not be a trained service dog, but that doesn’t stop her from being the hero that we were all hoping for. When Ralph is having an autistic meltdown, she rushes in to check on him and licks his face until he laughs. When he doesn’t want to leave his room because he would rather be coding on his computer all day, her need to be walked forces him out into the sunshine and over towards the park. When Ralph is struggling to understand how to connect with other children on the playground, Annie flops her tongue out of the side of her mouth and looks around a little bit cock-eyed, and kids come rushing over to meet her and squeal over how adorable she is. They pepper him with excited questions about her, and it’s an instant ice breaker. Much like my Latina mother’s assertion that no ailment exists that cannot be cured with a jar of Vicks VapoRub, I am a firm believer that no emotional ailment exists that cannot be cured by the love of Annie.

Adopted Dog Annie

This dog is a bundle of energy and love. She’s also helped me to lose approximately 11 pounds and counting, by insisting we go on walks every few hours. Thanks to Annie, we have gotten to know so many more of our neighbors! When we are walking her, people come up to us to remark on how funny she is and introduce themselves. People who have lived beside us for years, who we had unintentionally ignored until Annie came along.

Adopted Dog Annie

What more can I say about our sweet Annie Oakley? She’s a nanny. A therapist. A fitness coach. A kiss machine. A weighted blanket. An ice breaker. A friendship maker. A sister. A daughter. A member of our family. And truly our very best friend. How we ever survived without her is baffling to us now. She will live in our home and in our hearts forever.

Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Lenore won Korean K9 Rescue in Middle Village, New York a 2019 Holiday Wishes award.