Autism and Pet Adoptions


I didn’t bring Margo and her puppy home for me or my wife. It was for our two daughters. I wanted them to see and experience watching a mom care for her puppy. There was nothing special or out of the ordinary about fostering Margo and her puppy at first. My wife and I had done it many times before for Charleston Animal Society.

If Margo wasn’t with her puppy she was with my daughter Coraline. They would snuggle to watch TV and if Coraline was hurt, stressed, or anxious she would call for Margo. And the two of them had also developed a little routine. Every night, Coraline would call for Margo from her bed and she would rush over, jump on the bed, burrow under the covers, press herself up against Coraline and go right to sleep. We thought it was cute but it turned out to be much more.


You see Coraline isn’t like every other girl her age. She’s autistic. Most people who meet her won’t realize it because autism isn’t what everybody thinks it is. Coraline’s struggles often get dismissed as this or that. But for my wife and I, our life revolves around managing her diagnosis. Sleep was a big one.

Coraline has struggled with sleeping since birth. She didn’t sleep through
the night until she was 6, and even then only sometimes. Falling asleep takes her several hours of tossing and turning, not being able to turn off her brain. She would wake up multiple times a night, sometime spending half the night up. Every night was a gauntlet for us. If we were lucky she was asleep by 11pm, then one of us would have to get up multiple times a night to comfort her because she was scared or because she couldn’t fall back asleep. During the day, she was exhausted from not sleeping which would affect her mood and everything she did. It was a vicious cycle that we tried everything to break.

And then somehow, one day, a little dog named Margo made almost all of it go away overnight. The relationship between Margo and Coraline also seemed reciprocal. At first Margo was scared of people, but Coraline has helped her overcome her fears.

Margo gave Coraline a sense of comfort at night that we had never been able to give her. Margo would spend the whole night with Coraline, either under the covers or with her head on the pillow sleeping right alongside her. In the middle of the night or in the early morning when Coraline would wake
up she would snuggle Margo and pull her close and it would help her fall back asleep.

Our daughter was now sleeping through the night regularly. And she wasn’t taking as long to fall asleep either. It was amazing and we couldn’t believe it. This little shy and skittish shelter dog was helping our daughter in a way that we had never been able to.

Aldwin Roman, CAWA is Charleston Animal Society’s Vice President of Operations and Strategy. This personal story won a $50,000 grant for Charleston Animal Society in the national 2021 Petco Love Stories Contest.