Ch. E: Therapy Dog Needs Therapy (1st 4 pp.)

Chapter E (Therapy Dog Needs Therapy) shows the first 4 of a planned 16-18 pages. It tackles issues of therapy animals, race, obedience, training, boundaries, confidence and Autism for its rodent, human and in this chapter canine characters. While a dog met Aspie Mouse’s forebear in a comic written when the author was about 13, this version’s plot is all-new. Note that when the chapter is finished, what’s now the first four pages will be spread to at least six to lessen the density of text; it was purposely condensed to show more of the plot. See Chapter notes after these first 4 pp. for the story line for the rest of the chapter.

Notes for Chapter E, “Therapy Dog Needs Therapy”

While the focus of this graphic novel is a mouse with Autism — so humans are usually secondary — Chapter E is a bit more focused on a human girl with Autism (Desiree a/k/a Deedee) and how her interactions with animals improve her confidence. Because Emma is a therapy dog, the topic of therapy animals for Autistic people is central here. And because Desiree’s family is Black, issues of race, racial inequality and immigration in American society are touched upon (not in depth).

After page 4 (where it’s ended for now; plan is for 16-18 pages, relatively short), Desiree, her mom and Emma leave, and the Coppola family packs up again to return to their summer place.

The next day, Desiree, Cheryl & Emma return and summer weeks go by, though days aren’t defined. At first, Emma resists all attempts by Aspie Mouse to play, but over time, Aspie Mouse makes it harder and harder for her to ignore him. Finally, Emma gives chase, barks, etc., and at first Cheryl is the one who gets mad at Emma.  But gradually, Desiree starts being assertive, and gives Aspie Mouse a talking to as well as Emma. It starts dawning on Cheryl that Desiree is finally coming out of her shell over Emma’s disobedience (which of course Aspie Mouse keeps encouraging), and finally lets Desiree take charge of the situation — which she does!

The Coppola family returns just as Desiree’s grandparents are flying back to Haiti — so the 3 Jean tenants can go back to sleeping again in their apartment — everyone notices that Desiree is no longer quiet. As the Jean’s go back home, the question that hangs in the air is if Desiree will continue to have Emma, or — since she no longer judges she “needs” Emma as a therapy dog — whether she’ll “gift” her to another family needing a therapy dog. (The answer comes in Chapter G).

Questions for Thought/ Discussion: Ch. E, “Therapy Dog Needs Therapy”

E 1: Bobby and Desiree’s brother DeShawn seem to be good friends — at least in school. Yet a recent study found that while 40% of the U.S. population in 2020 was other than non-Hispanic white, only 25% of white adults in the U.S. had someone who is of another race or mixed race as a member of their inner circle — close friend or relative that they regularly see, share meals with, etc.

a. What reasons might account for why so few white Americans know even one non-white person whom they’d consider among their closest friends?

b. If a person of color is on the Autism Spectrum, what additional complications might such a person experience in the world due to race — especially if Black?

c. Follow up to b: given the issues people of color in general — and Black people in particular — face living in a majority-white country with a history of slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, etc., what additional concerns might they have if they also have Autism Spectrum traits (knowing it or not)? How might that influence if/ how they’re diagnosed?

E 2:  Desiree (Deedee) has Emma as a therapy dog to reduce anxiety. Anxiety is nearly universal in people of all ages with all degrees of Autism.

a. Do you or did you have a therapy animal yourself? If not, do you know someone who does? If you haven’t had one, do you wish you did? Are you jealous over someone else’s therapy animal?

b. If you have a therapy animal — or if you don’t, but wish you did — what does it, or would you imagine it would, help you do?

c. Have you experienced having a regular house pet (dog, cat, etc.) help you in some way, even if it’s not an official therapy animal?

d. Is there an issue where you live that gets in the way of having the pet you’d want?

e. Gloria (Desiree’s mom) says Aspie Mouse is Bobby’s therapy animal. In what ways is that true? In what ways is Aspie Mouse not a therapy animal?

E 3:  On page E3, Cheryl Jean makes the observation that while both Bobby and Desiree (Deedee) both have IEP’s (probably for Autism), Bobby has “no filter” for what he says, while Deedee hardly ever says a word. Autism is described as a condition of opposites, where different people tend to one extreme or another. For the following situations, which side do you fall on? Is it one extreme or the other, or for some characteristics, are you really in the middle? Ask someone who knows you well if they agree with you, especially for any where you believe you’re in the middle.

a. I say whatever comes in my head (no filter) OR I hardly ever say much (don’t want any trouble)

b. I speak in a monotone, with little expression OR I’m overly dramatic, as if always on stage

c. I prefer being alone or with those younger  OR Some people intrigue me, so I almost stalk them

d. I’m very picky when it comes to food  OR I’ll eat just about anything

e. Touching other people mostly annoys me OR  I really crave physical touching

f. I’m really passionate about politics  OR  I usually avoid political discussions

g. I love watching sports on TV or live  OR  I don’t watch sports on TV

h. I love playing sports, at least one  OR  I don’t really like doing sports – or exercise

i.  I’m pretty messy; don’t pick up enough OR I’m a neat freak – everything in place

j. I’m always moving: flapping, swaying, fidgeting OR I stay still so as not to stand out

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