Ethan the Lubricator

Right there on the Autism Assistance Dog page at Dog Guides Canada it says this about one of the roles that Ethan might play in our lives:

The bond that develops between the Dog Guide and child allows for increased social interaction for the family and the child.

One thing I didn’t anticipate is that Ethan would lubricate my social interactions, as well as Oliver’s.

It will be six months to a year before Ethan joins Oliver at school every day and so during this period he’s spending his days in my office and Catherine’s studio, and he goes everywhere we do as we wind our ways through our daily routine, which is part of his training to deal with everyday life in Charlottetown in our family.

What I’m finding in my walking-around-town-living-my-life with Ethan routine is that people who never would have paid me any heed now make eye contact, often with a kind, happy smile. It freaks me out a little, as I’m used to anonymously skulking around the city, nervously averting my eyes so as to not engage, and Ethan pretty well makes this an impossible task.

It doesn’t stop with that, either: people talk to me about Ethan. Especially dog people. But everyone. They are curious, they are open, and somehow Ethan disinfects me of the faint odour of “I won’t talk to him because he’s probably a serial killer” that we all wear around with us.

None of this is necessarily a bad thing. Indeed with Ethan in Oliver’s life as he grows through teenagehood, we will, we hope, see significant benefits from  that same sort social interaction. It will be great if Ethan can be the icebreaker that allows someone latitude to ask Oliver out to the soda shop for a malted (yes, my conceptions of teenage social life are strongly rooted in Archie). And if Ethan reduces Oliver’s stress enough to the point where he can do the same, even better.

And of course this isn’t all just magic Ethan fairy dust: being more relaxed, more self-assured, more able to navigate the complexity of the universe, must inevitably translate into subtle changes in gait and how one presents oneself to the universe. 

If my walking Ethan along Queen Street, head held high and proud and relaxed, is enough to entertain the smiles of the people in my neighbourhood every morning on the way to coffee, signs are good that Oliver and Ethan will go great places together.

Oliver and Ethan


Laurie McBurney's picture
Laurie McBurney on April 3, 2014 - 00:53 Permalink

Hi, Peter & Ethan,
In all my moving around I have always found dogs to be the biggest icebreaker. Walking dogs allows you to get to know your neighbourhood, your neighbours, the local parks, the flora and fauna of the area. Dogs also help you to get politically involved — witness my involvement with the Save Upton Farm movement to create a sorely-needed off-leash dog park while I was living in Charlottetown. (I realize that Ethan may not be able to partake in the joys of the off-leash dog park given his line of work, but it is such a wonderful source of exercise and companionship for many unemployed pooches and their “human companions.”)When I first moved to Charlottetown, on some days the only human interaction I had were with people I met while walking my dog. Even a “Good morning,” or “Boy, it’s cold today,” helped me feel like I wasn’t a total social recluse. I made friendships through dog walking in a society that allowed few other ways into a set social milieu. I am now living in Kingston, and could use a dog to wedge open the door into a society which is very much like PEI’s — people have lived here a long time, know each other very well, and despite being kind and well-meaning, have very little room in their lives for new people. Interesting post. Thank you.

Dave's picture
Dave on April 3, 2014 - 15:37 Permalink

This makes me wonder if the early courting days of Catherine and Peter took place in Pop’s Chok’li Shoppe.