J-Bear and Me

learning to navigate the world, j-bear style

Month: June 2015

5 Years of Learning

Before I get into this post just a reminder that we are trying to help Madison at Madison’s Adventures finish her fundraising to meet her own Brooklyn! You can read her story and donate here: https://www.razoo.com/story/4-Paws-For-Madison

babywithpuppy_markedFive years ago a little boy stormed into my life and changed everything. He wasn’t even born yet and he was writing his own agenda; charting his own course. There’s a due date? That doesn’t work for me, I’ll arrive when I’m ready… or when you evict me because I fell asleep and forgot to leave. I’m supposed to grow how fast and on what curve? Throw that out the window! Oh, you think you have when I’ll walk and talk scheduled? Well I’ll tell you what I think of that… When I dang well feel like it!

And that’s been how J-Bear does J-Bear his entire life so far.

dynamicduo_markedHe has worked so hard in the past year. He met his best friend Brooklyn last October and formed a unique and immediate bond with her. Brooklyn had an atypical 4 Paws story. She never had a traditional foster, only prison. She was considered feisty and stubborn. She is 70lbs of sass, silly and most of all love. She could not have been better matched to her boy and we miss her incredibly while she’s back at 4 Paws training.

The day Brooklyn came home, life changed. The entire world we knew shifted and it shifted for the better. J has grown such confidence in himself. He initiates conversations with new children and occasionally adults. He says “hi!” and even looks after people who seem to need help, displaying an intense and deep sense of empathy for those around him. He helps those smaller than him, studies those bigger than him and accepts each person exactly as they are. It is an unfettered, joyful and amazing way of looking at the world, one I hope lasts for a very long time.

selfie_markedHe has braved doctor visits, receiving glasses and even getting x-rays. He has talked on the phone, learned to work a computer at school and made true friends. There is no one apart from the station itself that knows Nick Jr’s lineup better than J, nor does another soul likely know the name of all the characters as well as him. It’s kind of scary the knowledge he retains… Scary and impressive.

This little boy who started out as a sweet, snuggly, smiling baby has grown into a rambunctious, loving and caring boy. Today, he chose a special new stuffie for himself that looks just like his beloved Brooklyn. He picked out a bed, a leash, a collar and a bowl for her too. The moment we were in the car, he was cuddling her and said “Brookie sick”. I asked what was wrong. He answered “Brookie belly”….

firsthaircut_markedNothing is missed. Nothing is overlooked by him. He listens and understands everything around him, filing it away for when the knowledge may be useful. He understands Brooklyn’s being away better than others may expect. He even surprised me with his depth of understanding as until today, he’s not said anything directly about it outside asking for her. It reinforces that I will never stop explaining things to him with care and reason, never dumbing things down or withholding his chance to take in the knowledge.

He knows. He’s so smart, so sweet, so amazing. I cannot believe this is my little boy and I’ll thank God every day for the gift of having such a blessing in my life.

Here’s to the first five years. Let’s see what the future holds from here.

Orange is the new Brooklyn

a prison ID with the image of a golden retriever looking alertly at the camera and her name BROOKLYN noted as the inmate in question

Prisoner 62210.5

Yesterday the prison programming helping 4 Paws for Ability welcomed back returning inmate Brooklyn. Now dubbed “Crooklyn”, she has been sentenced to 2-4 weeks to help rehab her for life on the outside. This is not what we planned nor is it what was expected. I’ll be honest, I was fighting mad at the idea that things were not going to go as I had been told they would.

Brooklyn is separated from her boy not so we can enjoy a leisure vacation of some nature prettybor because we, her people and her family, don’t want to deal with what she is struggling with. The reasoning is far from that. The dedication we have to Brooklyn is on level with the dedication we have to her boy. Her health, her welfare… All of her best interests are what drive the choices made for her. The idea of returning her to prison was painful. The moment Jeremy told me that was the plan, something inside me cracked harshly. I was abandoning my girl to another stint of being shuffled from person to person like she was unworthy or undeserving of consistency, love and stability. This is what my mind said.

This is not, I pray, the reality of things.

She will be with a prisoner who can give her something neither I nor a trainer or foster family can right now and that is focused, constant observation and care. Prison is a controlled environment for many reasons. This is to Brooklyn’s advantage. If something behavioral happens to trigger her issues, it’s going to be far easier to pinpoint. If it is something physical that is failing, it’s going to be easier to notice. My dedication to her may be strong but my eyes and attention are not laser focused on her 24/7. I have J and just life in general to cope with. The prisoner caring for her will be all about her for their time together. They will be a long-term member of the 4 Paws program experienced with the wide variety of dogs that come through it.

This stranger will help us make her whole. This stranger has an integral part in her future now. It is hoped that this is one of the prisoners who had her in their care before, as they already are a part of her, but I will likely never know if that was the case. The prison program gave her love she could not find elsewhere before and I am praying and trusting that this is exactly what will happen now. I’ve never wanted to hug someone in jail so much before but whoever these people are, they truly have my undying gratitude.

smilesThe sentence Brooklyn will service is 2-4 weeks. Two weeks from now we should get an update about how she’s doing. The hardest part? Prisoners can’t send photos. They can’t let J FaceTime with her or anything, for obvious reasons. It’s not their fault, but it is very hard on a little boy with autism and we’re going to have to figure out how to make do. Thankfully he has many stuffed dogs who are working hard to fill the too large empty space in our home and lives right now. The hope is that she will be home in time to start kindergarten with J in September but only time and patience will tell.

Thank you everyone who has been following our story for your support and love. This is very, very hard to go through but it helps knowing there are so many people out there who care and who want to see this team reunited and stronger than ever. A special thanks to the 4 Paws for Ability training staff (especially head trainer Jeremy, senior trainer Jennifer and Brooklyn’s trainer Shelby as well as Yrisma for their special assistance of Brooklyn through this) as well as the amazing little group of 4 Paws foster parents who have stepped up to be Brooklyn’s surrogate foster parents in the stead of prisoners who cannot offer extended support. Without your support, this would all be nearly too much to bear. Thank you.

to be reunited soon

to be reunited soon

 

Forward and Back

The past two months or so have been chaotic, to say the least.

First, Brooklyn came down with a bad bladder infection in April. We got her in to see her vet and all was well, so we thought.

Mid-May, she got nasty sick one morning. Just boom, all over the floor. Several times in a row. It’s my nature to think the worst and vomiting or diarrhea in dogs can go from zero to emergency fast, so we went to see her vet. Her vet is amazing. He is a friendly South African gentleman with a warm demeanor and genuine love of his job. He has never made me feel crazy for my worrying, that’s for sure, and took our girl’s care quite seriously. She had a low fever and some other symptoms, so he did blood work and got her started on some meds to soothe her belly. The blood work showed mild elevations on her liver function tests plus slightly low platelet count. She wasn’t bouncing back as she should have.

Off to the veterinary emergency hospital we went!

The care we found there was as warm and loving for her as at her regular vet, so we are blessed. They thought they noted something odd in her belly the first visit we were there but it turned out to have just been food, thank God. She still wasn’t herself, even after her repeat blood work came back relatively normal*. They believed she had leptospirosis. This is an infection that is generally vaccinated against but some strains are not covered. This potential diagnosis terrified me. Lepto had almost killed a 4 Paws dog just last year. Whatever it was that brought us in to the vet so early is our biggest blessing right now. They began treating Brookie as though she were positive for the illness that day so that she and her boy would be safe. They also discovered her bladder infection had either recurred or not gone away, so she was treated for that as well.

We are getting her back to perfect health a little more every day. Her diet is currently a challenge due to the strong antibiotics, but that strain shall lessen in a couple of days when she is finished one of the two she is on. The one thing that none of this health scare has managed to either find the cause of or remedy entirely are her accidents. These accidents have occurred since we arrived home. We cannot fully find a rhyme or reason to them. The moment we think we have a functioning theory and a probable solution, one happens outside the bounds of what we’d theorized and we’re back to square one.

So now, we face our girl returning to Ohio for evaluation by her trainers. It is hoped that the remedy is a quick, simple and easy one. It all depends on whether or not the behavior is replicated while she is there. This is like J-Bear and the neurological symptoms he’s had over the years, though. We can describe everything surrounding when they happen but we certainly cannot trigger them to happen ourselves. I am scared of what the future holds if they cannot see what we’re experiencing or worse, there is no quick fix. Brooklyn is as one of us now as J. She is a very important part of our lives. She will not be left behind, no matter what. I promised her that the first day she came back to the hotel with us, and I feel I am letting her down taking her back. My only comfort is that it will be temporary, no matter how things shake out. We are her family. 

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J, through all of this, has tried to be a very grown up boy all things considered. He shows deep concern for Brooklyn and like we always know, he’s always watching and listening. He knows she takes medicine. “Brooklyn medicine, not Jacob!” he emphatically reminds me. He knows she doesn’t feel good sometimes and he offers to kiss her boo-boos, even though he can’t quite tell what they might be. It is very tender and very sweet. She checks on him regularly and in return, he does the same.

The loss of his biggest support has been expectedly hard. Changes like this show their repercussions slowly with him. He builds up pressure inside until one day, or across several days, it all explodes in an ugly mess. His vocabulary is growing but it has not yet grown to include an easy array of words with which to express how he feels, so we struggle. He tries, though. He tries to describe everything he possibly can now.

It is a stark, remarkable change from where we were just two years ago as he entered preschool.

Now we wait and face the challenge of a summer without his Brooklyn. It will be hard and painful, going through his birthday, through doctor appointments, through activities and school without her. It will feel like a limb is missing in a lot of ways. Let’s hope we can return her to her place by his side very, very soon.

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*= I say “relatively” because some of the counts were just on the cusp of unusual but not truly anything remarkable. 

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