I was blessed with a chance to get a small glimpse at what our future with J’s service dog can hold. J’s friend, Z, received his dog earlier this month and his mom invited us down to meet the newest member of their family.
Before I get to what happened upon meeting him, let me tell you I had zero clue what I was going to encounter in terms of J’s behavior and reaction. I knew this dog would be a model canine citizen. He graduated as a service dog from 4 Paws for Ability and their dogs come highly trained and recommended. I knew this dog would also be a perfect fit for his boy, and that he would be trained to do all Z could need him to do plus even maybe a little more.
J was the unknown factor. My mind and unknowns can get really ugly, really fast. It’s a talent, I tell you. There has been such anxiety that I was making a wrong choice for my son somehow; that there was no way he would even care about this dog or worse, would be too nervous to ever be near the poor thing once we brought them home.
Safe to say, I am something of an idiot here and glad to have been proven so.
Enter Leno. He is a handsome golden retriever/labrador mix, gold of hair and sweet of face. Second of his name, but less of chin, but I digress. He is sturdy, handsome and absolutely the single most laid back dog I have ever met. He exudes this mellow air of confidence and subtle, gentle curiosity that needs no great action to convey, especially to children like Z and J. They just get it immediately and he gets them, especially his boy. He regarded J and I with curiosity and interest and let J approach him. This was key. His training and L’s handling shone like stars in this moment.
J approached him with exuberant interest. He was nervous, as his giggling betrayed, but he was interested. He learned to say Leno’s name. He patted him. He touched his head. He circled back to him several times during the length of our visit. If he looked over and Leno was dozing he yelled at the (poor, dear) dog to wake up! He got a chance to play a brief game of ‘fetch’ with Leno and found he loved it and loved having this dog be as happy to play with him as he could have ever wished. You see, J frequently tries to engage other children who are running around and most sadly ignore him. They don’t understand how he is trying to engage them, and even when I facilitate active chase and tag and play, children who don’t understand look askance at J and leave him be. His dog, well… We now have seen that he or she won’t.
Then it happened, a moment of even greater magic: We were out to eat in a local greasy spoon and L offered J a piece of treat to give to Leno. J, who I cannot get to touch much in the way of anything food related, took it readily… and let Leno eat it right out of his hand, laughing when he was licked by the gentle dog.
A child who resists hand washing, hates dampness that is not from obviously running water, freaks out with a drop of anything spills on him and is not cleaned immediately allowed a dog to eat from his hand and thought the licks he got were funny.
It’s hard to write that without tears. It may seem overstating, to draw it out like that, but this is a keen example of an everyday occurrence that can be a startling breakthrough for my boy.
This wasn’t even his dog. This was his friend’s service dog.
Can you imagine what his life will be like when he meets his dog in two months? It’s going to change so much, and for the better by a thousand miles. There is no doubt now, only intense eagerness for the moment he and his future dog meet and a renewed drive to get funds raised to help get us out there. More on that later though. For now, I’m just going to sit back and remain in star-struck awe over the gift L, Z and Leno gave to us!
A note about this post: Z’s mother is the fantastic photographer responsible for the pictures of J and Miss Kitty on the beach last summer. If you’re looking for an MA area photographer capable of not just fantastic work but understanding of children with special needs and able to show their inner light with ease, please visit http://www.myfamilytreephotography.com