Bruce and his new dog, Bella, greet their visitors at the door to his apartment. Bella growls; she is not used to new people. But Bruce knows exactly what to do, handling her with firm authority. Soon we’re all seated in the living room, Bella stretched out on the couch with Bruce, trusting that if her owner is okay with this stranger, then she will be too. It is a testament to Bruce’s commitment to being a good dog-owner, both for the sake of his dog and for the people around him. It is also a celebration of sorts: owning a dog is one of three recent goals that Bruce has accomplished.
Bruce lives with autism. When he was a child, his family doctor told him that he would never get past middle school. Bruce did not let that discourage him; not only did he finish middle school, he graduated from high school and is currently enrolled at the University of the Fraser Valley working towards his bachelor of science degree. His ultimate goal is to be a marine biologist.
As he works towards that big goal, Bruce regularly sets other priorities for himself. In recent months, he decided that his mission would be threefold: to get his own apartment, to get a dog, and to get a comfy chair. He moved into his own place in May 2018 and got the comfortable, upholstered chair in the fall. Bella joined him in December.
I can’t think of anything better than coming home to your own place at the end of the day, being greeted by your own pet dog, and relaxing in your own comfortable chair. – Bruce, dog lover
Knowing when and where to get support when he needs it is one of the secrets to Bruce’s success. He has a very supportive family, which he values. Another source of support is Communitas Supportive Care Society’s Personal Supports Initiatives (PSI) program. For the last year and a half, Bruce has met twice a week with Dexter, his PSI worker. Together, they work on building Bruce’s life skills, working on things like budgeting, housekeeping, and job hunting.
“Bruce always has lots of things planned for our time together,” Dexter says. “We also share a common interest in video games and environmental issues so we never really run out of things to talk about.”
Dexter says that Bruce’s determination is part of what enables him to achieve his goals.
“In the 16 months that I have known Bruce, the majority of the things that he accomplished have been achieved through his astounding personal motivation,” Dexter says. “Bruce has clear, long-term goals that pull him forwards. He also has a huge heart for animals so when he learned about Bella, it became his personal mission to get her a better home.”
Bringing Bella into his life is a great example of Bruce’s drive. He discovered Bella through a Facebook page for a dog shelter in New York.
“She was an abused dog and no one seemed to be interested in her,” Bruce explains. “They had her on a euthanization count-down. If no one would adopt her by a certain date, she would have been put down.”
The problem was that Bruce didn’t have the money to have her brought to the West Coast. When the shelter learned that Bruce really wanted to adopt Bella, they launched a fundraiser to cover the costs of shipping her out west. Three days before Christmas, Bella came to live with Bruce. It was the perfect Christmas present.
“I remembered to thank everyone on the shelter’s Facebook page,” he says.
Bruce grew up with a dog and along with further reading and study, he has created a routine and expectation for Bella to help her adapt to her new home.
“She looks to me for guidance and she knows that if she’s with me, she is safe,” he says.
Although he has accomplished some big goals already, Bruce continues to look to the future. Along with his studies, Bruce recently began a part time job which will help him achieve some of his future goals. He is working towards his full driver’s license and wants to purchase his own vehicle. Once he’s accomplished that, he plans to head to Vancouver and present his resume to places like the Vancouver Aquarium or any other places that offer jobs related to marine biology. Dexter is confident that he’ll experience future success.
“The focus and determination that he gives to overcoming obstacles inspires me,” Dexter says. “I recognize that there is a lot that I can learn from him.
And while there is much that Bruce still wants to accomplish, for now, he is content to come home to his own place, his comfy chair and Bella.