Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cowboy & Wills: A high-functioning autistic boy and his love for animals

Cowboy & Wills: A Love Story Cowboy & Wills: A Love Story by Monica Holloway

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book to read and review. As regular readers know, I'm not a dog lover, but I loved this book.

Monica Holloway's son Wills has high-functioning autism, and in her efforts to help him learn to function in the world, in addition to assuaging her own grief, she spends a great deal of money she doesn't have on a menagerie of small animals. Wills wants a dog, but that seems like a much bigger commitment than fish, turtles, hamsters, and bunny, so it takes awhile before they cave in.

Wills is a brilliant, sweet little boy...he is extremely fortunate to be born to two highly dedicated, loving parents who will do just about anything they can think of to help him. This book made me cry so many times--from when they receive the devastating diagnosis, to his first difficult day of preschool, and then when he gradually meets what might be minor milestones to most parents, but for Wills, they are absolutely huge. Even though we have not dealt with autism, after my oldest son Chris was born extremely prematurely at 24 weeks, and after 17 weeks of hospitalization and associated trauma, his first several years were not all easy. When he was a baby, we had no idea what he would be able to do--after the doctors had told us that he had 50% chance of having a major disability (after the 50% chance that he would die bit). He didn't walk until he was a year and half or speak until he was around 3, he had major feeding issues, and he had years of speech therapy and occupational therapy. He experienced many delays, including potty training, and had to learn how to socialize effectively with his peers. Chris was on his own schedule, just like Wills.

When Holloway and her husband finally get Wills his own puppy, his life is changed. Cowboy gives him the courage to do so many things that terrified him before--make friends, talk to strangers, take baths, eat out in a restaurant, etc. Cowboy opens the gate to the outside world for Wills and opens him up to full-bellied laughter and fun--something that is often lacking in the world of autism.

I felt honored to get a glimpse into this deep friendship and love story between dog and boy. It almost made me want to get a dog. (No, Nancie--not going there!!)

Autism Awareness Month is coming up in April. Here is more information about the story and the author's family:

Cowboy & Wills video:

Book Excerpt

Have a Cowboy story of your own? The publisher has set up a Facebook app, where you can upload your own Cowboy story. The winning stories will win a signed copy of Cowboy & Wills and a “Who’s Your Cowboy” t-shirt (with art from the book).

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