J-Bear and Me

learning to navigate the world, j-bear style

Month: October 2014 (page 1 of 2)

Training: Day 5

Today’s agenda was obedience, harness fitting, tracking and finally public access!

Here’s Brooklyn’s most serious and important job in action. Remember, right now she’s still tracking Lindsey, one of the training staff. She is slowly identifying J as her boy and we’re reinforcing it with lots of praise and special treats but it’s a process. Here’s a look at what we work at. Please forgive the shaky quality of the video, I was wearing the camera on my head. Notice at the end that even though the targets are within line of sight her nose never lifts – she relies on scent over sight to reach them.

After we did the morning session of reviewing obedience and fitting the dogs with their harnesses we hit the mall. This was both awesome and nerve wracking. Awesome in that all the distractions were fabulous practice for us as handlers but nerve wracking due to the same. People stop you constantly and unlike seeing eye dogs, we are allowed to let people pat her. The choice will ultimately be J’s when he is with us but for now, we let anyone and everyone pet her especially kids and babies to work on distraction with her. She did wonderfully! We also know we need to work on stairs and work on being near other dogs, stuff that is more about us learning each other than her having any weakness in her training.

A little insight imparted to us by the training director Jeremy: The belief that one should never pet a service dog comes from the rule with seeing eye dogs. Their work requires them to always be focused on task. The slightest distraction could imperil their handler as their handler relies on the dog moving in a straight line with no deviation but for obstacles. When you have a dog working the way Brooklyn is, petting is actually encouraged when the child is comfortable. This enables them to exercise their social skills using the valuable asset of the dog. If we’re too busy clearly we won’t stop for anyone but whenever we can, we’ll let J practice his skills by putting her in a “down” command and allowing for people to love on her a little.

Going back to the search and rescue training each night at the hotel now we’re playing a practice game to help Brooklyn equate “find your boy!” with finding J. We get a handful of treats she favors and gets no other time (Beggin’ Strips) and get her really excited, talking in a happy and exuberant manner then bring her to J and shower her with the treats like she just found him. It’s a slow process but ultimately worth it obviously. In time, the scent tracking will not just be shifted to him by what we do when we do practice tracks but also by this game.

Training is not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. My PTSD is a little rough this week, not going to lie. New environments, new people, new everything is something I can manage reasonably but add in a massive trigger (fear of reprimand/failure) and it’s been a strong exercise in how to manage my own issues. I find myself going to shy away from Jeremy when he talks to us but correcting myself, trying to mentally talk up how nice he is and how he’s not harsh, etc. It’s a bizarre thing to cope with, I’ll tell you that, but the fostering atmosphere of training is helping a great deal. We have great families with us and truly friendly and fun people. It’s a blessing to be here.

Now let’s see if I beat the wonderful Pastor Shane to today’s training update! You can read the chronicles of training from their perspective here: http://pastorshane2013.wordpress.com/ – His daughters are beautiful children and he and his wife amazing, especially with the focus they keep on their girls and their well-being.

Training: Days 3 and 4

I sit down to write this with Brooklyn laying not too far away giddily going to town on a nylabone given to her by grandma. She’s elated and relaxed, which is wonderful to watch. We just finished some distraction work downstairs and though she is struggling with a few little things, it’s me struggling alongside her. I am finding that it is me more so than her that needs training and guidance. Brooklyn knows her stuff, but I am unsure of her language and just have to practice, practice, practice.

Yesterday, day 3 of our 12 day training cruise, was a lot of obedience work plus an overview of scent work especially as it pertains to our classmates receiving seizure alert dogs. Another parent and the class and myself tonight had a brief conversation on Facebook that truly highlighted the different goals using the same means with our dogs. Their family is receiving on of Brooklyn’s siblings as a seizure alert and tracking dog while Brooklyn is an autism service dog who can do tracking. Both dogs use their noses to help us keep our kids safe at the root of it, just in different ways. I will write more on the similar skills later.

The commands we learned this day were as follows:

  • place: Brooklyn has a mutt mat, which is a quilted blanket about 3’x4′. This is her “place”, her spot that she can go do whatever she wants on when commanded there so long as she always has at least two paws on the mat. She can do paw stands or cartwheels if she so chose, so long as those two paws are on “place”. She is commanded there when someone comes to the door and you need to answer it, for example, or if she were working in a classroom and needed to stay out from underfoot but not in her crate. She is a pro at this and prefers to lay on her place even when she’s just monkeying around with a toy bone.
  • heel: This is very important to us when we work in public. “Heel” commands Brooklyn to walk with her ear or shoulder in line with my left leg. It keeps her close and secure when we are in say a store, a restaurant or any other public place. It is different from a “free” walk because she must at all times stay within that certain proximity of myself. We are working a lot on this, she and I, but I am pleased at the progress she is making. It is my skill, or lack thereof, at giving corrections that makes this harder on us both but I’m slowly gaining my stride I hope.
  • bark: Exactly what it seems like. Sweet Brooklyn can bark on command! I could not get her to do it easily yesterday but boy, when her trainer Shelby showed me the hand gesture she used today I can now get her to do it every time and giddily! Like I said, I’m learning her language as I am learning J’s.

We also did a lot of work with distractions. Jeremy, the head of training, brought his big bear of a German Shepherd, Brody, with him. Brody has to be one of the most laid back dogs on the planet. He’s 8.5 years old as opposed to our dogs just about 1 year of age and just sighs at the class of rookies around him. His presence was a great distraction challenge for the dogs. They had to be in the command they were placed in and ignore him, ignore us being loud and obnoxious or tempting them with treats and affection and so on. Our girl rocks this in class…. At the hotel? Work in progress. She’s so new to all of this environment too but as Jeremy had told us it gets better each day.

Today was the start of something amazing though. This morning, we got to see Brooklyn’s search and rescue skills in practice. The dogs learn this skill by tracking a staff member. Now, during class, we transfer that to J by having the staff member hide with him, then change out the person hiding with J, always making sure of course her target is in place. We work on this even when we’re at the hotel too by baiting J so to speak: He is the coolest thing EVER and we talk up finding “her boy” like we were finding the secret of life and when we walk her over to J, we rain down a treat she gets no other time.

A lot of people may be familiar with watching dogs do search and rescue on TV shows or in movies. It’s a little different in person. The way the dogs track is by catching the scent attached to skin cells that come off our bodies constantly. When Brooklyn starts on a track she moves in a sort of wide semi-circle on the end of a long, loose flexible leash. The moment she finds the scent she snaps to it and moves back and forth in an “S” shape, following the scent. It does not matter of J walked a straight line from “a” to “b”, she’s not going to follow that because the scent does not fall on the ground like rocks. It spreads like leaves on a breeze and she follows the width of the smell. Sometimes, she might lose the scent, circle and start anew. Other times, she might never lose it and go along that wide path to J without a waver but today, she stayed rather far to the right of where we who are visually oriented might have predicted.

Now, excuse my crude humor, but the track got rather…poopy. You see, Brooklyn is a highly skilled and highly trained dog but she’s still a dog… So post track she left me three presents to remember our track by. I elected to leave them at the park, in the rubbish, for something else to enjoy while I stick with just my memories of the day.

J was behind a building struggling with a meltdown when Brooklyn found them. The boy turned to her quickly though and helped Lindsey, the training assistant Brooklyn tracked, reward her heartily for her effort. You see, dogs do not attach severity to tracking, alerting or any task. They attach reward and the bigger the reward, the more loved the task. Search and rescue means we all but throw Brooklyn a ticker tape parade when she finds her boy. She gets Bil-Jac, which is pretty much the best treat ever to these dogs; she gets a ball and J to throw it for her and she gets tons and tons of excited praise. Our girl is a sensitive girl and she responds beautifully to praise, so getting all of this for a track makes her so excited to do it.

Now we’re back at the hotel and we’re learning that J is running out of gas fast during training. He gets so tired he skips most afternoons, and when we get Brooklyn back to the hotel post training he is excited to see her but so much so that he is quickly overstimulated. It is the novelty of her I think. He is obsessed with holding her leash right now which sadly is not good for her. J tugs, and he doesn’t realize those tugs mean something negative to his girl and make her sad. We now take off the leash when we are not immediately working until we get a training collar sorted out. That will mitigate the tugging issue… we hope. He’ll have his own leash that goes on her service harness shortly.

And that’s that. Rambling, likely riddled with typos but ta da! Here’s some pics:

aftertrack

dog and boy

goodjobb

“I sure did do a good job tracking, yes I did!”

pooped

Pretty much all the dogs had a long period of this during the afternoon session. We’ve spoiled her and use her plush pillow as her “place” in class.

The Moment

I should be writing about training but for now this strikes me as more important. I can write about today and tomorrow together in one post, right?

Brooklyn came back to the hotel with us tonight. J did attend the morning of training today but not the afternoon, so he was surprised in a major way when I came through the door with Miss Brooklyn herself by my side! Now, as fascinated as he is with her, he’s til now been reserved. He’s enjoyed her, but always in a very controlled manner. The only environment he had access to her in was chaotic and confusing to him, so it was too overwhelming for him to truly know her.

Then she stepped into his world.

I was nervous. Not going to lie, I was very nervous. I was uncertain how she would take to the hotel room and more importantly, how they would take to each other now that they were in a more natural environment for him and a completely new environment for her.

I was an idiot. I am so, so happy to report that.

He was timid at first with approaching her, giggling nervously and jumping away. He repeated again and again “J doggie, good doggie” or “Brooklyn J” in his singular manner of speaking, growing less nervous and more overjoyed the more time passed. I got her settled and shown around then gave them a ball stuffed with some good treats for them to play with and all walls and reservations between them crumbled. They could have played that game all night! He rolled it, she dutifully trotted after it, snatched it up, snuck a treat out and brought it right back! Those of you who follow us on the J-Bear and Me Facebook page have already seen a little video of this… It went on and on.

That was not the moment that it became clear just what this all meant to J. This was (forgive the terrible quality of the photo):

babies

 

You see, while Brooklyn rested on her mutt mat J disappeared into the bedroom. Moments later, out came J with three babies in his arms.He set them down carefully and gently introduced Brooklyn to one of them. He did this all quietly and seriously, holding it while she sniffed. She had tried to pick one up earlier while J wasn’t around and was corrected so this was not even an issue when he did this. She was tender with him and he was simply in love.

I only got hints of the beauty of this decision before. The moment he sat on her mat showing her his best friends, that was the moment. They found their language and he found in her not just a dog but a friend, showing her incredible trust by allowing her to “share” the stuffed animals with him.

My son has a new best friend. What could be any better than that?

Training: Day 2

Welcome to day 2 of training: corrections, distractions and tricks.

Today was a lot of teaching we handlers how to be the people our dogs need to be. The dogs are trained. They would not be in this class if they  had not learned all the skills they need. It is the adult handlers who truly need the training because even if you have had another dog you need to learn to speak the language, for a lack of better word, these dogs speak. They are praised and corrected in a specific manner and we spent a lot of today going over that.

The thing I am having the hardest time with is judging my leash. I need to leave enough slack to let Brooklyn know I am confident in her and her skills but have enough hold on it to be able to give corrections as needed. I tend to hold too snug, which I would imagine is a typical newbie thing. When we have the dog actually coming back to the hotel with us I will get ample opportunity to practice this and I cannot wait for that. Brooklyn is a gentle soul through and through – she does not need a tight hold and does not need strong corrections. I do not want to upset her by being clumsy to such a gentle lady so practice will ensue!

We went over sit and down again, this time with distractions. Oh, the distractions. They challenged these dogs with everything they love: pupperoni and balls! The goal is for them to not break command to go after the beloved item. You offer distractions that are far more abundant than they are likely to get in public. They threw pupperoni all around them, threw the ball around the room, bounced it right in front of their faces and hey – kids even ran around them yelling and acting out and the dogs did great. We all had to learn how to keep them in line to prove that we’re holding them to the same rules their fantastic trainers and fosters did.

We did more of the corrections when we were working on how to help the dog follow our lead when we are walking. When the dogs are not in a “heel” command they can walk at our side in any position provided they aren’t pulling on the leash. It’s a “free walk”. Our dogs have not learned our pace yet however, so we have to teach them. They adapt fast though as we bring the dogs around the room turning 180 degrees to go the other way to make sure the dogs are paying mind to our movements. You master this in the training room not because they think it’s fun to have the dog walk around a confined space with you for a prolonged period but it makes you more prepared for the moment you walk out of the training facility. Brooklyn and I did great in the middle of the room but at the door, she wants to run ahead. Outside is fun and different, so she is ready to go. A little correction is needed to bring her back into pace and she does a beautiful job afterwards.

Also, on the topic of outside, I have to say she’s a potty time rockstar. That’s all the details you all need.

The day ended with the fun stuff. We did “shake”, “five” and “high five”. Brooklyn is so giddy to do whatever you ask, especially when she sees the treat bag. She gave any child who asked any one of those three commands… but she preferred J. It helps that the best treats come out around J. These commands are part of a group of fun tricks the dogs all know to help create social bridges for the children. Children with special needs often have a difficult time making social connections with peers and adults but with their dog, they can offer to show them the tricks their dog can do to start a dialogue. This will open a lot of opportunities for them, and J just loves getting “five” from his girl.

I know I am missing things. The day was hectic but tomorrow we bring our girl back to the hotel with us. This will be when it sinks in with J that this is for real, even though he did call her his dog a few times today.

As ever if you have any questions, feel free to ask!

For now a couple of pictures that you might have seen already:

jbearandbrookie

A boy and his girl.

thuleface

Like this face won’t melt hearts.

Training: Day 1

Well, we’re going to start a little further back than training. We drove over 14 hours to get to where we need to be for training. It was … long. New York is bigger than you think and so it Ohio. We were exhausted, but we added an extra day to our journey on each end just to be prepared to recover from such long drives. The hotel we are staying at is nice: Friendly staff, clean and wonderful premises and an easy enough location to find close to where we are training made it a great choice. We were extra lucky that on the day after we arrived we were able to meet three 4 Paws for Ability fosters and two service dogs in training. J was delighted but is now under the distinct impression t hat dogs are supposed to come visit him in the hotel courtyard.

We’re working on that.

This morning training began with meeting all of our dogs and hearing a little bit about 4 Paws and the experience the training director has. All of the families involved in this class are just tremendous. They are kind, engaging and all “get” it. We’re all there together to do the best thing we can for each of our kids and we all accept our children exactly as they are. That’s a feeling you cannot bottle when you’re raising a child with any challenge. It is a rare gift to see them in a place of total unconditional acceptance and you are presented just that the moment you walk through the door.

Each dog is introduced one at a time and there is a lapse between every couple of dogs. This is because they are introduced to you by their trainers. The two women who trained our class’s dogs each brought one dog in at a time, spent some time chatting with the family then went out to get another. We were one of the last families but the wait was worth it. As the previous post shows, Brooklyn is gorgeous. She is as gentle as she appears, excitable only over high value treats or her beloved ball. She settles quickly, loves easily and is keen to just be adored by those around her. She made herself right at home with all of us easily, which is a rare treat. Remember, most of these dogs are most intimately familiar with their specific trainers right now. That is to whom they are bonded. They will be distracted by them during the first days of training and constantly have the desire to be with them. We are strangers, us families to whom they have been matched.

That’s where food comes in.

The children are given bags of dog food that are their dog’s breakfast. They can feed it to their dog to start their bonding process. It’s small, but every little bit matters and these dogs love their food. The child and the parents can do as they wish to give the dog their food: Place it on the ground, let the dog eat out of their hand, sprinkle it like fairy dust… Whatever gets it from point a to point b. Jacob handed a few pieces out of his hand but mostly put Brooklyn’s food on the floor. She loved it. I fed her from my hand* and she loved that too.

By the time this was done J was done, too. There were so many people, so many new things, so many new interactions that he was overwhelmed and frightened. He chilled at the hotel with his dad while his grandma and I returned to training. The afternoon was just the basics like how the gentle leader works, how a training collar works, how to hold the leash and how to confidently and appropriately give the dog basic commands. We all had a chance to practice and it doesn’t matter if you’ve handled dogs before or not, you learn a lot and they help you along where you need it. I learned how to work with Brooklyn when she’s presented with something new and extraordinary to keep her calm and accepting of such situations, which is wonderful to know as J’s behaviors change regularly. We practiced “sit”, “down” and “free”…. Sit is self explanatory, “down” means to be down with all four elbows on the ground and “free” releases the dogs from commands.

It was a busy first day but amazing. She is just so beautiful I am in awe of her. She will return with us to the hotel on Wednesday and I feel that will be the day this starts to really become permanent in J’s mind.

—————-

*= I have a really nasty apple allergy. Brooklyn’s food contains apples. Guess whose hands were blowing up like balloons during training from feeding her? Laugh all the laughs, people. I know I did (and I am better now thankfully!)

She is Love

That is all I can even say about this gorgeous girl. She is love. Sweet, eager to please and loving beyond what you could even imagine possible. She is soft, she is gentle, she is perfect for her boy.

She is just love. Please enjoy the photos courtesy of Stephen Herron, a dear friend who has been in my life so long, he’s beyond family to me now.

waited

sojacob

sharingfood

meeting

kisses

greatfriends

gorgeousgirl

The Many Questions

There are so many questions that come up in a journey like the one we’re on. They are asked by a wide variety of people ranging from those who know us and J very well to those who have only fleetingly encountered our story online. Most questions are fair, and should you have one you’d like answered, feel free to ask. You can always inbox me on our Facebook page if you do not feel comfortable posting it publicly.

Here’s some of the biggest questions. I did do a brief Q&A when we were fundraising for 4 Paws that covers some of this so if you’ve read that, this might be redundant in places!

Does J really even need a service dog? What can a dog even help him with?

This question always comes across to me as more confused and uncertain than it does potentially accusatory. When you realize what a very, very small percentage of the disabled community uses service animals and how rarely most people encounter them in day-to-day life, the question becomes all the more fair. When we do not see something or engage with it, it’s really hard to understand it.

J’s dog represents three things to him: comfort, security and independence. Brooklyn will be able to mitigate anxiety driven behaviors via commands from her handler that will draw J’s attention to her, giving him a focus and place of peace when he is overwhelmed. She has at least 3 actions she can be asked to take, and as we get into training and work with each I will detail them further. He has a very, very hard time accessing things that most take for granted: A grocery store or mall can be completely heartbreaking torture for him right now. I can plan trips to these places with the precision of military special ops and still end up in a situation where he cannot cope. This is not anyone’s fault, it’s just life in our world. Brooklyn will mitigate that.

His dog is trained to also maintain safety for him. She will be able to tether with him when we’re out as a team under a handler’s care, ensuring he cannot bolt off somewhere dangerous. She will also be able to track him should he vanish. There are those who scoff, claiming these dogs cannot possibly do that for these children… I cannot see why they scoff unless they have not themselves witnessed a dog track a child. I’ve had the chance to witness it on video several times now and every time I am amazed. They do not falter, these dogs. They find their child and in an emergency situation, this skill is mission critical. Remember, my son is attracted to water and trains and has zero sense of danger. We need every advantage we can to bring him back should he ever run off. He’s tried a few times and thankfully we’ve caught him but he’s only going to get bigger and faster, as kids do.

Is he really autistic?

There is no “look” for autism. No one “looks” autistic. The disorder is characterized by a series of behavioral and cognitive traits, not by appearance. When J so chooses, he makes splendid eye contact and will utterly melt your heart with a soul felt smile. Most days, however, he’s much more content to do as he does, engaging the world in his slightly either side of typical manner. That is his autism. He is a sensory seeking, object studying, train loving, hugs and squeezes needing little boy who struggles with communication but works hard at it every day. He is in a classroom of several other children with varying needs. You cannot tell on sight what any of those needs are… You just see several amazing kids who happen to be fighting big battles to make their way in the world.

If you take anything away from learning J’s story, I pray that it is the understanding that autism is deeply individual. People on the spectrum may share traits. They may share habits. They may share interests and disinterests just like the entire world does… but there is no one single autism. It is a spectrum for a reason and each individual diagnosed with autism is like a different star in a dynamic sky.

How come service dogs are so expensive? Why didn’t you find an organization that gives them “for free”?

The quotes on that question are important. There is little in this world that is actually free. There are organizations that do place service dogs for various disabilities with little cost to the recipient except time. The waiting lists are long. It’s the trade-off for the low-cost to the recipient. Some of these waiting lists can be 5+ years and many organizations will not work with such young children.

We did not lay out $13,000 of our own money for this dog. That is now how 4 Paws for Ability works. When you’re accepted into the program you become a fundraiser for them, sharing their message with the world. You raise not just the money to place your dog but awareness for their cause. We are their biggest advertising campaign. The money we raised is just about half of what it can cost to breed, raise, train, place and support a service dog through their life. Our dog will be supported through her whole working life by trainers and staff who are on call whenever we might have a question. If there is an emergency, they’re there for us. If our dog needs refresher training, they’ll help. They connect us with other families who are going through similar things and give us a home within the organization along with placing this well-trained dog with our child.

Sometimes, $13,000 seems far too little.

Can  you ever write anything short?

Nope. That’s why I blog.

PS: Super excited I spelled “recipient” right without spellcheck.

The Goldens of 4 Paws

I am completely obsessed right now. Here’s some of the best of 4 Paws for Ability’s golden retrievers.

families

Clockwise from upper left, we have our beautiful Brooklyn. Next is service dog Alder, her half-brother, then service dog Vesper (now Bella), service dog in training Hazel, service dog Jerica, service dog Nora service dog Oreo and the dad to all of them Caepor!

This is only a fraction of the dogs Miss Brooklyn is related to but as you can see, she comes from a huge family including many service dogs now working for children in the 4 Paws for Ability program. Look at what lovely dogs they grow to be! Some, like Nora, are golden and labrador crossbreeds while others are full golden retriever.

All beautiful, all special, all changing lives.

Miss Nonie Doggie, the first dog J became attached to the photograph of, is half-sister to our Brooklyn so we will be seeing a little of her every day which makes me very, very happy.

The golden retrievers of 4 Paws also have a little bit of a reputation for mischief. We’re eager to see if that is part of our life to come. Will Brooklyn be to J what Hobbes is to Calvin? I’m thinking so but time will tell.

I mentioned on Facebook that the blog might be quiet over the coming week. It is not for lack of love but I have a lot of work to do to make everything ready both for Brooklyn to come home and for us to get out there to meet and train with her. Starting next Monday will be the training updates, which will last two weeks. I’ll add as many pictures as I can!

Thank you all for reading and supporting!

Skidding to a Thanks

Last night at midnight, our fundraiser with Ride to Give ended.

It not only met its goal but exceeded it. That in and of itself is amazing, right? However…

It gave us a community. We have our 4 Paws family online and nearby and now we have this incredible extended Ride to Give family joining us. Our family has grown exponentially overnight and I am looking forward to what that will mean to J and Brooklyn’s future together.

You all gave us hope, peace and relief. We’re hoping that you find joy, humor and awe in what’s to come with J and his girl. I have been sharing his journey from the start thanks to the release that is writing a blog, now we have even more people to hop on the ride we’re on to see just where it’s going to go.

When we start training, the posts will be very Brooklyn-centric. We’ll be learning everything we need to do to make J and his girl successful, and it is tradition in a way for 4 Paws families who are willing to chronicle their class time to share with future classes as well as their own families. After they graduate… Watch out, world! The real adventures shall begin.

We skidded to a halt after our amazing Ride to Give race, that so many helped us finish in record time. Forgive me if over the next week I might be a little more quiet than usual, we have a lot of rearranging and packing to do to prepare for our new girl. I am not abandoning all our new friends and followers but focusing on J, Brooklyn and our new family as it is going to soon be. It’s kind of like getting ready for a new baby, right?

Thank you all again. Now sit back, relax, and get ready for what promises to be one heck of an amazing ride upcoming!

Dear Brooklyn

Dear Brooklyn,

It’s not even been a whole day since we learned you are likely to be a part of our family and I am as in love with you as I could have ever hoped and more. You represent so, so much and come to us to do such a very big job that I can easily forget what a young pup you are! A few weeks shy of your first birthday and you have already changed lives. The prisoners you trained with I hope found you to be a great therapy to them and a great hope. I am so grateful to them for working so hard to help you be the best dog for my boy.

We get to meet you in just ten days now. Ten days that will both fly and drag for us. I have a lot to do to make your home very, very ready for your arrival! Our home is not big, but it is enough and we hope you love it as much as we love having you in it.

And your boy… Oh, your boy.

Brooklyn, he’s love. He’s just love. He struggles so hard and tries to be so much like all around him sometimes but most of the time? He’s just love. He will hold your tail (but has learned to not pull). He will touch your ears and beg for kisses. He will say your name in his singular way and he will play ball all day with you if we let him and have a spot for it…. He will love you from the first moment he hugs you.

It might help that he frequently smells of peanut butter too. 🙂

You have so many hopes and dreams to carry on your paws, Brooklyn. 4 Paws would not have matched you to one of their children if you could not carry them. You are J’s peace, his comfort, his strength and his security. He is going to find in you some things I as his mother can’t even give him and for that I’m beside myself with gratitude. You will keep my boy safe. You can bring him home if he is lost. You can give him calm when he is troubled. You can be his bridge between his comfort zones and a world that is oh so scary to him. Everything will be different now.

It will be better.

You and I, we will be working a lot together to be a great team with our boy. We’ll have a lot of fun, but you’re his girl, and he’s your boy. I cannot wait to see you both grow together.

Love,

J’s mama

Brooklyn as a baby

Brooklyn as a baby

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