By Mary Rosswurm, executive director Little Star Center
We have always had dogs and have six currently. When our son Brad was born, we had a small terrier mix mutt named Barney. Growing up, Brad was never afraid of the dogs, but not very engaged with them, either.
This changed in 2008, when Lulu, our yorkie poo, figured out how to get up onto Brad’s very high bed by using an ottoman as a step. After this, something clicked and Brad became a full-on dog lover. He and Lulu are inseparable and he often refers to her as his “best friend”. Brad has said that he will be very sad when Lulu “passes” as she is his “beloved doggy friend.” Brad has become much more aware of our dogs and will get them fresh water, which includes ice cubes, refill their food bowl when empty and share his own food with them. We can often hear him talking to Lulu when he is in his bedroom. They have become wonderful friends and I am so happy that he has been able to make that connection with her.
A few years back, Brad asked if we could go see the movie, Marley and Me. In general, he only likes animated movies or live action comedies. I think he thought the movie was going to be more of a comedy because Owen Wilson was starring in it. At the end of the movie, the dog, Marley, grows old and eventually dies. I had that painful lump in my throat and my eyes were burning as I tried to hold back the tears. I could hear others in the theater sniffling and noses being blown. Out of the corner of my eye, I kept looking to see if Brad was having any type of visceral reaction to the movie, to which it seemed he was not. Once the movie was over, I could see that he was not experiencing any of the emotional reactions that I and so many others were experiencing.
As we walked to the car after the movie, I asked him, “Didn’t you think the movie was sad?” He replied, “Yeah.” I asked, “Didn’t it want to make you cry?” He simply said, “No, it’s not my dog.”
As often happens during everyday life with Brad, I am often puzzled and surprised at how he looks at the world differently than most do. Not wrong, just different.
Mary is executive director at Little Star Center. Her son, Brad, has autism.