Dartmouth Family Adopts Dog Believed to Be Autistic
Can dogs have autism? No one knows for sure just yet, but according to Rover.com, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest it is possible.
A Dartmouth family has adopted a dog believed to be autistic.
Dr. Nancy Duncan volunteers at the Fall River-based Forever Paws Animal Shelter, a no-kill non-profit shelter that relies on donations, fundraising, and dedicated benefactors and supporters.
That's where Dr. Duncan met Addie Mae.
Addie Mae is a mix of American fox hound, American pit bull, American bulldog, chow, and Great Pyrenees. Addie Mae was only 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 foster Addie Mae for the weekend, as she needed to be in a dog-free environment because of the attack. The Duncan family dog had recently passed away.
When the weekend was over, 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 exhibiting aggression but usually at weird times like when she was wagging her tail and seemingly happy to see us." she said. "She would snap to get us away from her."
The Duncans consulted specialists, including trainers, veterinarians, and a veterinary behaviorist in Dennisport, who first suspected Addie Mae might be on the autism spectrum. Dr. Duncan said Addie Mae is "extremely anxious and has to be on several medications for this just to be calm."
Dr. Duncan spends 30 minutes daily training Addie Mae on life skills and controls her schedule as much as possible.
"If she's had an anxious day, we let her have as much rest as possible, which helps," she said.
Dr. Duncan said that after nine months, there are still some issues, but they are making progress.
"We still can't just reach out and pet her, but she will pet herself on us," Dr. Duncan said, adding that Addie Mae is "super smart." "I've taught her to file her own nails on sandpaper since I can't cut them myself."
Then there are the weird times when 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 will jump up on all four feet on my kitchen table and stand and stare at the cactus for 20 minutes, not eating it or doing anything but staring."
Dr. Duncan said Addie Mae will "randomly and inexplicably become afraid of things like the front or back door, then she will suddenly be fine."
It sounds like everyone involved has benefited somewhat from this experience.