Griffin and KC Take on the World
Griffin Busenius was born January 13, 2009. Two years after Griffin was born, he was
diagnosed with a nonverbal autism. Griffin, at times, has been prone to wandering and bolting.
“At that age, we were able to keep up with him. But as they get bigger and stronger, the kiddos
get more determined,” Andree Busenius, Griffin’s mom, said. Andree was in search of ways to
keep her boy safe, but the different techniques just didn’t work for them. “We found out about
the organization Dogs with Wings from Griffin’s psychologist,” Andree said. Andree then made
the decision to apply for a service dog.
They were on a wait list from May 2016 until December 2018. “I was hoping during the wait Griffin
would no longer need a service dog. His needs became greater,” Andree said. Andree was notified about a black
Lab named KC trained as an autism service dog from Dogs with Wings. “My husband and I did a week of
training without Griffin with Dogs with Wings to learn how to handle KC and start to build that bond,” Andree said. Griffin was also introduced to KC along with some of the other service dogs at Dogs with Wings. After KC achieved his public
access test, he was brought to his new home. “That same night KC slept in Griffin’s room,”
Andree said. A tether connects Griffin’s belt to KC’s vest. When Griffin pulls, KC is trained to stand
his ground, only letting Griffin drag him slightly. Andree then feels tugging on KC’s leash and
she is instantly alerted to Griffin’s pulling. “And so, it’s not KC’s job to keep Griffin safe but
more so to alert us so we can keep him safe,” Andree said.
As time goes by, KC fills more roles. “So, in the beginning he was specifically for
bolting and wandering. Now KC is also trained to depressurize,” Andree said, “By saying
‘squish,’ KC will crawl onto Griffin’s lap.” The weighted-blanket sensation of KC keeps Griffin
calm and happy. “They have bonded so much over the past couple years. Now even if KC is lying in
another room and Griffin’s really upset, KC gets up to find Griffin and makes everything better,”
Andree said. While constantly by Griffin’s side, KC makes school days more comfortable for
Griffin as well. During recess, Griffin and KC play pass together. KC nudges the ball to Griffin
and Griffin rolls it back to KC. Many of Griffin’s classmates and friends also join in on their
game. “It makes Griffin so visible. I feel like sometimes when you have a disability, you see the
disability. I now feel like people see Griffin for Griffin, what he’s capable of and what he can offer,” Andree said.
Canines for Disabled Kids recognized Griffin and KC through one of the
many scholarships they offered. Andree applied for the scholarship, writing
about Griffin and KC and all KC has done for them. Because of the award
from CDK, the household hopes to go to Disneyworld. Such an experiences
would’ve been out of the question for Griffin if not for KC’s presence.
“Now that Griffin has KC, it has given his disability a noticeable feature that
stands out to others. People see KC in the service vest, and they see Griffin
with him, and they realize that there is more that’s going on,” Andree said. Andree encourages
people who want to learn more about KC to ask Griffin. Griffin uses his iPad to communicate to
others. “If individuals want to talk about KC, they have to go through Griffin,” Andree said.
KC’s presence has brought many changes not only to Griffin, but to his supportive family
as well. “When you are a parent of a special needs child, you develop almost a fearfulness to let
them explore and be a kid because most things can be potentially dangerous. KC makes it so I
don’t have to always be the nag and the one saying no,” Andree said.
– Megan Waceken
Megan is a Professional Communication and Journalism student at University of Maine,
Presque Isle (2020)