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Facility Dog Drake's Farewell

This year we are celebrating Good Dog! Drake’s retirement from her work at the Comprehensive Autism Center in Southern California, where she has worked as a Facility Dog since 2014. Good Dog! Drake was named after her sponsor, The Drake Center for Veterinary Care in Encinitas, CA. We are grateful to the Drake Center for their support in enabling Good Dog! Drake to positively impact so many children over the course of her career, and to her handler and mom Susie, for being her loving and benevolent leader.

"Words cannot accurately describe how much of a positive impact Good Dog! Drake has made on the lives of so many children. We are so proud of her and the dutiful service that she has provided at CAC for all these years and we are sure that she will be remembered by all who have been lucky enough to meet her. Being able to work with Good Dog! Service Canines in the fundraising for Drake has been one of our proudest moments and kickstarted our journey of being able to work with Good Dog! to help raise funds to provide service dogs for multiple families and their children in the San Diego area. We hope Drake enjoys her retirement with her family, everyone at The Drake Center loves her so much!" - Drake Center Team

Written by Susie, Good Dog! Drake's handler and mom.

For the past 7 years Comprehensive Autism Center (CAC) has been blessed with the devoted service of Good Dog Autism, Drake. Drake, a gorgeous female golden retriever fundraised by the generous folks at the Drake Center for Veterinary Care located in Encinitas CA, entered our lives with a boom! She was a spunky, energetic, and inquisitive one year old pup ready to jump into action. Her days of training were lively and I as a first time handler wondered if we were going to be a match. Would we be able to service the children at our centers? While we initially had our trials and tribulations I realized Drake was special. Her desire to be close to humans, specifically children, did not go unnoticed. She would spot a child from afar and begin her wiggle dance. Her excitement to greet her human friends demonstrated her amazing training as she would inhibit her wiggles and slowly come to a down position, often without a voice command, as she anticipated a greeting from one of the children at the center. This tender greeting was usually reciprocated by squeals of “Drake!, Drake! It’s Drake!” followed by pets, snuggles, and hugs! Drake became famous around the centers. During her time at CAC she travelled between all 3 locations, San Diego, Temecula, and Oceanside serving hundreds of children over the years.

Facility dog Drake at work with a child
Trainer Sam and Drake on her first day at the CAC

Drake’s ability to connect with our children was like no other! She was intuitive, knowing what the children might want or need. She provided support during learning sessions that required focus and attention. She would willingly rest her head on a child’s lap when a teacher encouraged the child to target flexible thinking, modify a routine, or to avoid leaving a teaching environment. We often attached a short leash to allow children to move with Drake during a transition that might be difficult, such as leaving a train set to wash hands before snack with friends. This often supported a positive transition and allowed more social opportunities with similar aged peers. Everyone wanted to walk with Drake and our clients would patiently wait at circle time for the teacher to call their name so they could hold on to the leash and get in a few strides with their special fury friend. Drake provided a sense of comfort allowing clients to do things that they found more challenging. The more comfortable our clients became in doing difficult things the more confident they became.

Drake laying next to a child during therapy
I love my job!

Cole was not so willing to share his favorite toys and this became difficult when interacting with peers. He would begin to scoop up all of his cars and pack them into a bag if he noticed a peer approaching. His family described the difficulties they had when trying to go to family gatherings or others’ birthday parties. They shared that they would never go to parks as they knew the challenges they would encounter as other children swarmed with unpredictable movement. Is the child too close? Will they try to get near Cole? Will someone accidentally kick his line of cars that he spent 15 minutes lining up with precise linear alignment? What will we do if he has a meltdown right here, right now? When Drake began visits with Cole he seemed to not notice her. He didn’t look up and really didn’t pay her much attention. That is until the day she entered and picked up one his perfectly lined up match box cars. He patiently waited for Drake to drop the car so he could pick it up and put it back in the line. We were all so amazed! Typically, someone moving that car would set the occasion for tears, yelling, and a potential 45 minute tantrum. Within seconds Drake again sniffed around the room and once again picked up one of Cole’s cars, Cole was fast to respond once Drake dropped the car and placed the car back in the line. Now, Cole was focused on Drake watching her everyone move. He looked around the room, picked up Drake’s tennis ball, and offered it to her in replacement for one of his cars. Drake was happy to engage and laid down next to Cole while he played cars. These interactions continued and Cole looked forward to seeing Drake on her visits. He immediately acknowledged Drake upon her entrance and would offer her the tennis ball. He loved to play fetch with Drake and enthusiastically joined his peers and Drake in our play center for hide-n-seek. Drake was amazing at seeking friends and was often one of the first ones to be found. Hiding an adorable furry dog is not the easiest task. Drake’s days at the center brought laughter and sunshine to us all!

Drake has worked hard over the years! Her service and dedication to our clients is truly remarkable. The stories of Drake’s adventures with children diagnosed with ASD are endless. Her imprint on their lives is priceless! I am forever grateful for the Drake Center for Veterinary Care, Good Dog Autism Companions, now known as Good Dog! Service Canines, and all of the families that believed in Drake’s work.

Apply for a Good Dog! Facility Dog here.

Drake lies with a girl and chews a bone.

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