Before Assistance Dog Logan joined Aucklanders Nico Jansen, Michéle Theron-Jansen and their son Reuben over six years ago, they described their lives as being in their own permanent ‘lockdown’, a term we are now all so familiar with.
Reuben, now 18 years old, is autistic, non-verbal and suffers from hypotonia (decreased muscle tone leading to stability issues and trouble walking). He struggles with loud noises, would often run off without warning and could be unwilling to comply with directions. This made going out to public places or even a walk to the park difficult, putting the family’s life on hold – similar to a COVID-19 lockdown.
Within months of Logan joining the family, Reuben formed a strong bond with his Assistance Dog, starting to show affection and making sounds to communicate with him, something his parents had never seen before.
“Reuben didn’t know how to show affection, even to us as his parents, so seeing him start to pat and ‘speak’ to Logan was an absolute revelation. Now, he’s so much more connected to the world around him,” explains Michéle.
Logan has been trained to anchor Reuben in case he tries to run away into potentially dangerous situations. After being tethered to Logan for a few years, Reuben is now off-tether and holding Logan’s leash himself. Logan also helps when Reuben doesn’t want to follow directions, like when it’s time to leave one of his favourite places, the swimming pool.
“We tell him that ‘Logan wants to go home’, and Reuben then follows his lead, with Logan often picking up his towel as a sign,” says Nico.
Other everyday activities like haircuts were traumatic for the family, often taking hours and leading to local hairdressers asking them to not return. Now, they can achieve a haircut for Reuben in 15 minutes, with Logan at his side.
Just like The Farrell family in Georgie and Willow's story, the Jansen's also experienced prejudice and misunderstanding when Reuben acted out in public as autism is more of an 'invisible' disability. With Logan alongside them in his smart blue ADNZT coat, people are more understanding, and the family can go out wherever and whenever they want (current alert levels aside).
“It’s hard to do justice to how much Logan has transformed our lives, and the huge impact he has had. Anyone who donates this Appeal Week will be giving freedom to those with life-altering disabilities,” says Michéle.