We knew that the relationship between Daniel and Dylan was something special when Daniel began bragging about how many times a day they went for a walk. For a 16-year-old whose preferred form of exercise involved a television and game controller, it was a significant indication of just how deep the bond had grown between him and the WAGS companion dog, Dylan, who entered his life seven months earlier.
Those one-mile walks, which have slowly evolved into independent outings, are also a reminder of how Dylan has helped broaden the world for Daniel. His limitations had turned him into a homebody when he wasn’t at school or involved in some organized activity. For him, a walk two blocks away from home was about as likely as a flight to the moon. But with Dylan in tow, our suburban neighborhood quickly opened up to him. He developed confidence and earned our trust in a way we wouldn’t have dreamed possible.
He has also taken surprisingly well to the responsibilities that came with Dylan. There are never any complaints about feeding him (even if Dylan’s preferred breakfast hour doesn’t fit well with the teen sleep cycle) or about cleaning up the yard. In fact, taking responsibility for those chores seems to have helped him become more reliable with others – a side benefit we never anticipated.
Of course, a little food and a couple of walks a day is an absolute bargain for all that Dylan gives Daniel in return. He’s a friend who doesn’t mind when Daniel plays a song for the 17th time in a row, doesn’t judge him for preferring Sponge Bob over hip hop music, and is ready to wrestle, walk or dance at the drop of a hat.
All of this is not to say that Dylan has entirely nudged video games out of Daniel’s life. But he has learned that if he curls up next to Daniel on the couch and patiently waits, he eventually becomes more interesting than the image on the screen. Sooner or later the leash appears and they are once again out the door into the great wide world – together.