UPDATE! LAPD Detective’s son Luke Wilson gets his autism service dog

Several months ago, we asked for help in raising money to provide an autism service dog for Luke Wilson, son of LAPD Detective II Ed Wilson. Since that time, the Los Angeles Police Protective League’s Eagle and Badge Foundation has covered the full cost for the service dog. Additional donations have paid for the Wilson’s travel and lodging, and training for the newest member of the Wilson family.

Below is an update from Luke’s mother, Rebekah Wilson. She shares some highlights and photos of the training. She also offers an update on how much support “Bones” is providing, not only to Luke, but to his siblings and parents as well. A big thank you goes out to everyone who supports the Eagle and Badge Foundation. Your generosity allows us to continue to provide assistance to those in need.

CLICK HERE to read the original story requesting support.


Some photos of Luke and his new autism service dog. These were taken during the training.

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054.JPEG - This is my absolute favorite photo out of the entire trip and training. This was on day three of the training (there were 11 days in all). The photo was taken about 15 minutes after Luke had a major meltdown and was hurting himself. He started to escalate and get upset because his hamburger was missing (he left it with us and went out to play, then it was gone when he came back in). He sat down next to me and began slapping his head with his open palm. When I tried to hold his arms, he began to punch his head. So I put him in a bear hug to hold his arms down and wait it out. Instead, be used his knee to whack his head and hit so hard he nearly knocked us both off of the couch and onto the ground. So I ended up crossing my legs over his at the same time as the bear hug (I felt like a pretzel!). Bones was in the middle of the room with Ed practicing commands (there were about 3 dogs out on the floor). Bones got a little distracted because he saw Luke struggling and crying - this was a good thing because he was paying attention to Luke. When his turn was over, he came over to Luke and began to nuzzle him and lick him (he's trained to do this to interrupt Luke's meltdowns). Luke suddenly stopped - completely. He became very still, melted into me and then slid onto the floor into a puddle. Bones sat down next to him and Luke scooted over, crouched behind Bones and then simply leaned on Bones. You can see Luke's eyes are closed and he is sooooo peaceful and relaxed. He stayed like that for about 10 minutes. Bones never moved or seemed to get annoyed or tired of Luke, Bones just sat there as if he knew this was exactly what was needed. When Luke finally got up, he petted Bones on the head and left a happy, smiling and very peaceful little boy. Normally - we would have had escalated behavior from him and then a fallout period of 30 minutes up to several hours. This was the first time I realized how strongly Bones could affect Luke's behavior and shorten the lengthy meltdowns and fallout. And I have to admit it, Bones looks so majestic and noble in this photo :)

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160.JPEG - The first day Luke was initially excited by the dog, but quickly became overwhelmed and stayed away. He preferred to be outside in a large playground area. The second day I realized Luke needed to be exposed in short spurts with Bones, so we had him come in about 10 minutes out of every hour for the morning session. In the afternoon, Luke came in all by himself and laid down on the floor with Bones. The photo here shows the first time Luke reached out and touched Bones without being told to do so - you can see him holding Bones' leg.

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166.JPEG - This was the first night Bones was in our hotel, day two. As you can see, Luke spent alot of time laying on Bones or near Bones. Luke was definitely calmer, more controlled and happier. And Bones has been specially trained to let children lay on him, it makes a big difference for the child. Our youngest is 4 and her favorite thing now is to curl up laying on Bones.

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Day 7 012.JPEG - We were learning behavior disruption commands. Ed is practicing with Bones doing a "lay". This is where the dog is commanded to come and put his head on the child's lap or near the child's lap.

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023.JPEG - This was at the end of a search and rescue "tracking" session. Bones tracked Luke and found him hiding behind a shed with one of the trainers. Luke is giving Bones some treats and then there is a game of ball as a reward. Bones' favorite all time thing to do in the entire world is to track - he totally loves it. His second favorite thing to do is to play ball. So the ball is the reinforcer and reward for tracking (which he already loves to do). Bones was one of their best trackers and we've seen that firsthand. WE are learning how to read him, he knows what he's doing - but we're still learning how to read him and know he knows what he's doing. That's our homework - and it is harder than you think! The dog is definitely smarter than the human when it comes to tracking.

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Day 4 009.JPEG - This is our youngest, Constance. She is 4 years old. You can see how huge Bones is by comparison. Constance is in love with Bones and is a miniature dog trainer now. She gets Bones to do just about everything we can do and she sat and listened in to most of the lecture and learned along with us. So funny to watch her and she knows her stuff!

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Day 7 016.JPEG - This is Uriah, another of our autistic sons. He can be very introverted and in some ways appears more affected than Luke does. Ed is practicing the "over" command, where the dog is trained to walk over the child and then do a "down", or to lay on the child. We have found this is the most effective command with Luke out of all six of the behavior disruption commands.

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Day 7 014.JPEG - Here is another shot of the "over". This is Ed practicing on himself :) Again, this is THE most effective mode of calming Luke down that we have in our arsenal of techniques.

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Day 7 013.JPEG - Here is Ed practicing the "nuzzle" technique. We give the command "nuzzle" and Bones will lean into a crying or screaming child and begin to lift up their crossed arms, nuzzle their face, neck or arms and begin licking them. Luke tends to get annoyed at this, but it breaks his meltdowns and then we can work on having Bones do a "down" to calm Luke down even more. So for Luke, the nuzzle distracts him from the meltdown long enough for us to work with him or get Bones in a "down".

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Day 9 10 014.JPEG - We were about to do a search and rescue tracking practice for Luke, but it was hot and he didn't want to walk off and hide. He went into a full blown meltdown instead. So we skipped our turn temporarily and got Luke down on the ground, this was our first chance to do an "over" during a live meltdown. What happened was incredible. Normally Luke continues with his meltdown for 30 minutes or more and then the fallout and upset the rest of the day is draining. This time, Luke initially fought when we brought Bones over and told him to "over". Luke was mad and fought our attempts to calm him. Once we got Bones in the "over" position, Luke completely stopped and stilled - like a switch had been turned off. Didn't even twitch. He heaved this HUGE sigh, then just laid there with his head on my lap while the dog laid on top of him. The deep pressure of the dog's body and the warmth of his body worked their magic - Luke calmed, mellowed out like he was given a strong dose of Valium and just soaked up whatever Bones was giving out to him. Again, after about 10 minutes, Luke was ready to get up and was so calm, quiet, happy and ready to do the tracking. This was a total miracle - it was almost TOO easy. Ed and I were both humbled at how this dog had completely changed an otherwise miserable episode for Luke (and his siblings who have to watch and listen to Luke).

Another amazing thing that happened is that Luke is now sleeping in his own bed without any problems. Luke is 8 years old and has never slept outside of our bedroom before. He panics, has anxiety attacks, nightmares, can't stop talking long enough to go to bed, focuses on every tiny, miniscule sound as if it were booming in the room, etc. He talks in his sleep so much he wakes himself up and then can't go back to sleep. We brought Bones home with us to the hotel on the second day - that night he slept with Luke on the sofa bed. Ever since then, Luke has been sleeping in his OWN bed in his OWN room without us needing to be with him all night long. We do stay in long enough for him to fall asleep as he can't stop talking long enough to go to sleep, we need to continually remind him to hush and quiet and then he goes out. But Bones is on his bed and when Luke wakes up at night, he simply leans over and goes back to sleep on Bones :) I have had more sleep since Bones came home than I have in the past 8 years since Luke was born - and Luke is now more independent too. Luke is very proud of himself now that he can sleep in his own room. Bones is also great at alerting me if Luke gets out of bed, the other children are up (the other autistic kids all have insomnia and heavy sleeping medication doesn't even phase them - this is typical with autism) or something is happening in the house and Bones let's me know. The tiniest sound, like a window closing or the cats walking down the hallway perk his attention from a dead sleep - if it continues or is something unusual, he lets out one sharp, high pitched bark. Enough to wake me up so I can listen in too. If it is nothing that is concerning, I simply call out that it's okay and he goes back to sleep. If it is something I need to get up for, he also gets to go back to sleep. I highly doubt Luke will be able to get up and wander the house like he used to, or the other kids can wander without Bones waking me up from now on. This is great and one area I wasn't expecting. He wasn't trained to do this, he does it on his own. And believe me, we are very thankful for that!

Bones also gets ancy if he hears Luke in another room starting to escalate in his speech speed or pitch. Bones knows something is happening or about to happen and if he is in a "down" (he is supposed to stay until given a release word) he gets whiny and will even alert with a bark. That makes us pay attention and help Luke before he gets into a major meltdown. Bones also gets ancy if Luke goes out the front door, back door or upstairs or is out of sight. That also lets us know that we need to find Luke and make sure he's okay. Luke will never have a head start on us again if he wanders or decides to hide on us and as the head trainer at 4 Paws told us, "These kids can run, but they can't hide anymore!" Luke often gets upset and then hides. You would think we could find him easily in the house, but he is smart and does the unpredictable. One time, he took all the folded towels out of the linen closet, climbed inside, and pulled the stacks back in again. We couldn't find him for over an hour. Another time he hid in the garage in a very small crawl space. Where we live, we have black widow spiders EVERYWHERE and where he was hiding there were at least half a dozen. He was not there for long, thankfully, but the potential for being bit was huge. The faster we can find Luke, the safer he is - and Bones can find him super quick. And that doesn't take in Luke wandering away or getting lost.

Another funny but amazing thing is that Bones was trained to track ONLY Luke. During the first three days I noticed that every time one of the kids walked by Bones would sniff the air. After about the third day he stopped that. I thought he must have learned their scents by then and we were told the dogs memorize familiar scents - which is a big advantage when a child goes missing. Instead of police or search and rescue dogs who need to smell the child's clothing and memorize the scent, these dogs already have their child's scent memorized and can start tracking with the simple command "track". So the funny part - at the Cincinnati train station we had a 13 hour layover and were scheduled to leave at 1am - not easy with seven kids and a dog in tow. About 11 pm our 18 yr old daughter went to the ladies room to change her clothes because it was getting cold. Bones had been asleep when she left and a few minutes later he perked up, looked around and sniffed the air. Then he went to Luke and sniffed him heavily, wandered the room, went back to Luke and sniffed again, wandered the room and then began whining. I thought he had to go potty so I leashed him and opened the waiting room doors to take him outside. Instead, he dragged me across the train station at a run (which means he's tracking - they pull hard!) and continued to drag me all the way up, around and into the ladies restroom and didn't stop until he was trying to cram himself under the bathroom stall our daughter was changing in. Bones knew one of the kids was missing when he woke up, he figured out which one it was, and whined until I let him out - then he tracked her without being told and found her very quickly. He did all this on his own because he couldn't see Mary - totally blew us away. When we were home, he did this again with our youngest one, Constance. So he knows when one of the kids is missing and if they are gone too long or they left without him seeing, he tracks them down :) Again, we didn't expect this and he wasn't trained for it - just shows how intelligent this big puppy is :)

There are sooo many stories to tell. But this is long and I'm not sure what you need. Ed and I would like to write a letter of thanks too, but aren't sure who to contact about that. We would also like to be included on any trainings within LAPD where autism is a topic - we would love to bring Bones and Luke. I've already been asked to do a powerpoint presentation and then a short lecture at the local college for their special needs teacher training classes. I'm also scheduled to do the same thing for social workers through Regional Center so they know that these dogs are a viable option for their special needs families. So any way we can be an outreach, we are more than happy to do so.

Thanks for your time,
Rebekah Wilson