Dog is important member of the family

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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The bond between a boy and his dog can be strong, but for one Lincoln family, their canine member of the family has been more than just a playful companion. For Noah Sheiring and his family, their dog, Wuest gives Noah, 7, something to focus on when he gets over stimulated by new situations, according to Paul Sheiring, Noah’s father. This is because Noah has Fragile X syndrome, which means he has a fully mutated x-chromosome, Paul Sheiring said. While Fragile X syndrome is the No. 1 genetic cause for autism, Noah’s father said he is not autistic but is on the autism spectrum, which means “he exhibits characteristics of autism.” In Noah’s case, his learning is delayed and he can be over-stimulated by new situations. That is where Wuest comes in. The female Labrador retriever and golden retriever mix was donated to the Sheirings by Canine Companions for Independence. According to Paul Sheiring, Wuest knows more than 40 commands, many beyond the standard sit and shake commands a lot of dogs know, including “car” to get in the car, and “visit,” which the family uses often. “A lot of what we use is visit because she’ll put her head into him and it calms him down,” Paul Sheiring said. “This allows us to set her down with him and he can focus on her and it gets him out of his shell.” Barbara Sheiring said anything out of routine for Noah can overwhelm him, and this causes melt-downs, which Paul Sheiring said occurs “more so when we are out and about.” During a meltdown, or shut-down, Paul Sheiring said Noah will throw himself down and stop listening. Before the family had Wuest, they could either continue doing what they were doing when the meltdown occurred, such as shopping or dining out, or remove Noah from the situation. “When he’s done, he’s done,” said Barbara Sheiring. “Most kids you can re-direct but there is no re-directing.” The Sheirings say Wuest has allowed the family, including son, Nate, 3, and Sarah, who is almost two, to go out for six hours, compared to one hour, and they are able to take the dog to any public place, like restaurants or stores. “It gives us the opportunity to have him focus on the dog and not external circumstances,” Paul Sheiring said. “She’s non-confrontational and she’s accepting of him.” The bond between boy and dog is very clear. “First thing in the morning, she’s up there wagging her tail by his door, waiting to get in,” Paul Sheiring said. “It’s just awesome that bond that’s been created, it’s a blessing.” Wuest also waits by the window in the afternoon, waiting for Noah to come home from school. Noah is in a second-grade special day class at Twelve Bridges Elementary School, where he works on math, spelling and reading. Paul Sheiring, and his wife Barbara Sheiring, expressed their gratitude for the donation by Canine Companions for Independence. “We couldn’t say enough about how wonderful they are,” the father said.. In order to receive Wuest, Noah and his parents attended a two-week training session at Canine Companions for Independence’s Santa Rosa facility, according to Bonnie McMellon, a development associate for Canine Companions for Independence. Paul Sheiring said the first activity Noah wanted to do with Wuest was read to her, which was the first time he’d ever read a book out loud. “Now he reads to her as often as he can,” Noah’s father said. In August, the Sheirings stayed in the facility’s dorms for free during the training and passed “a full American Disability Act test to show they are capable of handling the dog in public,” McMellon said. After passing the test, and graduating from the training, the Sheirings were able to take Wuest home last August. “Noah is a skilled companion graduate and his parents are facilitators. They are responsible for her (Wuest’s) care and handling of Wuest in public,” said McMellon. “Wuest is there to be his unconditional friend and to keep him stable in public.” McMellon also said Wuest does not go to school with Noah and Wuest does not go anywhere with Noah unless his parents are present. Wuest is trained to open and close doors with the use of a strap, can retrieve a variety of items, and can hop onto counters if needed, McMellon said. Noah knows all of her commands, although Wuest primarily listens to Paul and Barbara Sheiring, and Noah cannot hold the leash until he is an adult but he is able to hold onto a harness on her vest, according to Paul Sheiring. Canine Companions for Independence is a nonprofit organization. The dog worth $45,000 is given free to owners who take the training session to learn how to work with the dog, according to McMellon. Paul and Barbara Sheiring said they were concerned about bringing more into their already full household but having Wuest has been helpful. “We have a busy house but she tones it down and keeps him (Noah) calmer,” Paul Sheiring said.