learning to navigate the world, j-bear style

Month: May 2015

I Didn’t Choose Her

I didn’t choose her.

It’s true, we chose to have a dog. A service dog. I read about various benefits and various agencies. I learned what these dogs could do and what they could provide that we, the adults in his world, could not. I chose to apply and to fundraise and to rally to J’s cause.

But I did not choose her.

service dog on leashThe process is long. When you engage 4 Paws for Ability and have finished your fundraising, you begin the match process. This involves videos of your life and your child alongside intensive questions so that the trainers can get the most complete view of what your family needs in a dog. It will help them understand the dog’s tasks, if the child will be able to command the dog at all, if the household is a busy and chaotic one or a more low-key one… Everything that might make a perfect fit. It feels like a dating profile. You’re putting yourself out there laid bare – yourself and your family of course – and you’re hoping that these trusted at that point strangers can sift through it and add the piece you’re missing.

They can, and they do.

Brooklyn was sassy from the start. She was a confident, silly puppy from what I am told. She has known herself better than I know my human self, to the point where she may have seemed overconfident. She had her early struggles. Whoever her prisoners were, God bless them deeply. They took her in hand and gave her the tools to be great. They had a rough stone and set to creating something shining and unique from it. When it was ready for finishing, they handed it to the loving hands of the 4 Paws training staff.

They shined her up into a diamond.

golden retriever

thanks to Stephen Herron for this beautiful photo

We did not choose Brooklyn. She was chosen for us, by the trainers and by fate. Her body could have been any shape, size or color but her heart; her spirit are exactly what we needed. She compliments J in ways we could not have anticipated until we met her. She slotted into our lives like she had never not been there. She minds all of us along with everyone she comes to know. We are her people, and she loves us openly and completely. There is never a waver or falter, only forgiveness and love.

It’s amazing. She is amazing.

Right now, Brooklyn is sick. We aren’t sure what besides these awful recurrent bladder infections. We’re hoping it turns out to be just those, because then we can move forward and get her healed. Whatever it is, whatever it turns out to be, we will carry her through. I did not choose her, we were blessed by having her chosen for us and we will not let her down or let her suffer. She has only been with us 6 months. It is our job as her caretakers and family to make sure she has so, so, so many more months and years of good life left with us all, no matter what it takes.

A Little (In)Sight

I cannot remember the first time I noticed it with exact dates or times. I only remember that he was very, very small. Newborns do not focus their eyes well, but babies start to. Toddlers assuredly do so even better, yet somehow, J’s right eye was always seeming to turn inwards. It was typical of me though to constantly question myself. Was that really happening? Was it something to be concerned about? Growing up with a lazy eye myself was on my mind, so I kept watch on it.

Last year, it grew more obvious. He was definitely dealing with something in terms of his vision. The strangest part was this child has never missed a beat in terms of picking up on visual stimuli in his environment. An issue that truly affected his sight to any measurable level was not the first thing that came to mind, strangely enough. He was and is a very visually stimulated child. The journey began to figure out why this one eye decides to do its own thing.

Our first visit to an ophthalmologist was horrifyingly bad.  The woman advertised herself as working with young children and people with disabilities. She claimed to be a developmental ophthalmologist too. This should have uniquely qualified her as someone able to work with a kid like J.

Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

She was a nightmare. She was impatient with him, he could not settle in her office and I spent the entire appointment chasing him around to try to settle him while she complained about his lack of cooperation. I’m sorry, but when you’re about as personable as a cactus you’re going to get what you give. She charged us a stupid amount of money for the privilege of learning nothing we needed to know. I was angry and discouraged.

Then we went to the pediatric ophthalmology department at Floating Hospital. This was a whole new world! The techs that work there have a truly golden touch. Our first visit was not perfect but it was good enough that the doctor could see that there was something there, something to be kept watch over and something to try for better assessment of in the future. She did not dismiss us nor did she push J so hard he was in hysterics by the time we left. She worked with him, not against him, his best interest firmly at heart.

That first visit was in December. We were newly home with Brooklyn so her place by his side was not as solidified. She was there for him at the appointment but it wasn’t what it could be. Flash forward to late April…

Perfection. Absolute perfection.

J walked into the office without a fuss. He attended to what the doctor asked him to do, no coaxing from me. I assisted with directing him to reading the board across the room but little more than that. She got an excellent read on what exactly he could and could not see, plus what his vision needed. This visit the crossing of his eyes was very, very clear to her as well. Brooklyn stayed nearby and kept a watchful eye over her most calm of boys. He struggled having his eyes dilated but that was expected. Once the drops were in, his good humor returned and he did just such an impressive job with the rest of the visit.

two pictures together

I cannot even get over the cute here folks.

Trying on glasses was a hardship but he did it. He now sports some dark blue Miraflex glasses that can withstand his level of activity and just general J being J. He has taken to wearing them much, much better than we all expected too. The entire team (doctor, therapists, family) had a plan in place with a back up plan for that plan if he rejected the glasses. They have not been needed yet. He has truly, truly impressed all of us.

The amazing thing is hearing him speak even more about what he sees. Let me tell you, he sees everything and is fascinated by it. Most parents enjoy their children detailing the world as they see it at a younger age… I am so excited to be hearing it now. Car! Truck! Bird! Helicopter! Clouds! … His observations are quick and cheerful. He loves the world around him, so very much.

And every dog is Brookie.

It’s another new little chapter in our great adventure of life adding glasses to his world. He is adapting, he is growing and he is continuing on his own amazing course. It is not always easy but it is the successes that come, like this one, that make any pitfalls seem so very small.

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