The two weeks you’re at training are amazing and grueling, but you’re only focused on yourselves and the dog. Then you leave this tremendous high and boom, back to real life.
With a dog.
Do you remember the day you brought your first (or subsequent!) child home? How amazing and euphoric it was as well as how scary and “oh my God this is real what am I even going to do?!” it felt? Welcome to returning home with a service dog.
It’s exactly as though I have two children instead of one. Each need their own levels of care and one is learning how to be in this house while the other has it mastered. Brooklyn is doing great and every day J seems to love her more and more. We’re all still learning how to speak Brooklyn too, but that’s coming along nicely.
I won’t say it is not exhausting though. I am up earlier, going to bed about the same time but rather than have down time it is non-stop go go go. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. The phone calls have increased, the day to day needs versus can wait til later things have increased, the level of work is just higher. That’s unavoidable. We brought home a dog, not a robot. She needs care, love and attention. J needs care, love and attention. They both need discipline too.
This is an important reality to write about I feel. A lot of people enter this process with this all too perfect expectation of what will happen when they reach the day their dog comes home. It is as though the fact that they are in fact bringing home a dog, not a magical band-aid, is lost. Brooklyn means so much to us in so many ways but there’s no way she was going to show up and from day 1 be the perfect solution to … well, anything. Were you awesome the first day at every new job you ever started? Did you feel 100% on point the first day you lived in a new town and home?
I cannot expect that of her. That’s not fair to her, or to myself.
What she has done in this short time is plant a seed of confidence in J. He has always been a very self-possessed child but now he’s willing to engage with others more readily when she’s beside him. He demonstrated to a little girl in his class, a child he’s known nearly 2 years now, how to pet Brooklyn and cuddle her. He actively encouraged her, all on his own. This is usually something reserved for people much smaller than himself. He is calmer when she is around, unless there is play involved, and they cuddle together in the car. When he cries, maybe about two-thirds of the time she finds him and tries to distract him or cuddle him. When we leave him at school or therapy, she’s all about nearly bounding back to the door to get him when he’s through, eagerly awaiting her new buddy.
They’re fast friends, and she’s even managed to help him leave the house without any stuffed animals for the first time in years. Now, don’t think Miss Kitty or any of the gang are thrown to the wayside. They’re still there for bedtime, forever special to him and us.
But… it’s work. A lot of work. We’re going to get into our own training routine here now that everyone is back to their usual schedules and, I hope, make a great go of things. I’ll as always keep you all updated on the shenanigans of these two. When they’re alone together it’s very Calvin and Hobbes, so watch out world.