Can dogs be autistic? No one knows for sure just yet, but according to Rover.com, there is growing evidence to suggest it’s possible.
A Dartmouth family has adopted a dog believed to be autistic.
Dr. Nancy Duncan volunteers at Fall River-based Forever Paws Animal Shelter, a non-profit shelter that relies on donations, fundraising, and dedicated benefactors and supporters.
This is where Dr. Duncan met Addie Mae.
Addie Mae is a mix of American Hound, American Pit Bull, American Bulldog, Chow, and Great Pyrenees. Addie Mae was just two months old when she arrived at Forever Paws in July 2021 after being attacked by a much larger dog where she lived.
The shelter asked Dr Duncan to take Addie Mae in for the weekend, as she needed to be in a dog-free environment due to the attack. The Duncan family dog had just passed away.
At the end of the weekend, Dr Duncan, her husband Andy and their son Cooper decided to adopt Addie Mae.
Dr Duncan said Addie Mae’s behavior was odd from the start.
“She was aggressive, but usually at odd times, like when she was wagging her tail and seemed happy to see us.” she says. “She would snap to take us away from her.”
The Duncans consulted specialists, including trainers, vets and a veterinary behaviorist in Dennisport, who initially suspected that Addie Mae might be on the autism spectrum. Dr Duncan said Addie Mae was “extremely anxious and had to take several medications to keep it calm”.
Dr. Duncan spends 30 minutes a day coaching Addie Mae on life skills and controls her schedule as much as possible.
“If she’s had an anxious day, we let her rest as much as possible, which helps,” she said.
Dr Duncan said after nine months there were still problems, but they were progressing.
“We still can’t just reach out and stroke her, but she’s going to stroke all over us,” said Dr Duncan, adding that Addie Mae is “super smart”. “I taught him to file his own fingernails on sandpaper since I can’t cut them myself.”
Then there are the weird moments where anxiety takes over.
“I can’t put toys with faces in her crate when I leave because she has significant anxiety,” Dr Duncan said. “She’ll jump all four feet on my kitchen table and stand and stare at the cactus for 20 minutes, not eat it or do anything but stare at it.”
Dr Duncan said Addie Mae “will be randomly and inexplicably scared of things like the front door or the back door and then she’ll suddenly be fine”.
See the video here of Addie Mae’s reaction to the door.
It seems that everyone involved benefited somewhat from this experience.
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