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This weekend NASCAR honored the families of those diagnosed with Autism. It brought to mind an event that occurred while I was a police officer. I rode mounted patrol for a great many years. My horse and I met many wonderful people while on patrol. On one day we had been doing a photo shot for something within the department. We had been working for quite a while and the horse and I were in need of a break. As we walked through the parking area of the park we were in, I was approached by a woman and a young boy.

The woman asked me if her son could pet my horse. I never refused such a request, so I stopped and my horse stretched his head down for the boy. The boy was talking to the horse as he petted his neck. I leaned down to try to hear what he was saying to the horse but could not understand his words. I looked to the mother to help me understand what he was saying as I realized it was an intent conversation. The mother had tears running down her cheeks. This of course alarmed me. I asked her what was wrong. She told me, “Nothing, you don’t understand, this is so wonderful.

“What is so wonderful?” I asked as I was sure it had to do with whatever the boy was saying to the horse.

“My son is autistic, he is seven years old and has never spoken a word to anyone. He is speaking perfectly to you horse. This is the first time I have heard his voice,” she said through her tears.

Though the words were not intelligible to me, the boy and the horse were having a perfect conversation. The horse seemed to understand everything the boy said to it. I had to swallow and look away so I would not shed a tear as I sat there on my horse. After several minutes the boy looked up at his mother, took her hand, and they walked away.

I always said the horse was a great tool in police work. It appears it is also a great tool for helping those afflicted with Autism. I have learned since that dogs and cats help these children as well as horses. There are several therapeutic riding organizations who help Autistic children. Animals have more value than just a furry friend.

In closing, hug your furry friend right now and give some of your spare change to Autism Speaks to help the children and parents of those diagnosed with Autism. Animals and people make a difference and open doors for those who need help finding the door.