learning to navigate the world, j-bear style

Tag: brooklyn (Page 1 of 3)

Of Brooklyn and Blossom

service dog on leash

we miss you brookie cookie

The comparisons are inevitable. Every day we see things that either sharply contrast or deeply coincide with our previous experience. It cannot be helped, we talk about Brooklyn even as we’re praising Blossom. That lovely golden girl is here every day even though she is not.

This will perhaps be the last time I talk about this in any detail. Brooklyn was stolen from us. There’s nothing I can do about that now. In fact, because 4 Paws for Ability chose to act in a deceptive manner and passed her on likely without any of her previous history to a new family, I would not do anything even if I could. I would support the new family she is with in all the ways we were not supported. I would fight to help them make this work, not because we have Blossom and APAW but because I know the deep horrible pain ripping her away would cause. It never should have been done to my child and I will never allow it to be done to another so long as I can help it.

Brooklyn is gorgeous, gentle, sweet…. The right heart with the wrong upbringing. The puppy years are so crucial for a service dog. They have to be exposed to so much during critical periods in order to stand a chance at a successful working life. Brooklyn’s upbringing was limited. She was not out in the world for most of it, she was in prison. Do I blame the prisoners? Not at all, ever. They gave her all they could and clearly put their heart and souls into her training. She had a lot of beautiful skills and qualities, she just could not overcome her anxiety and her fear.

I wish I had known in October 2014 all that I  have learned in the time since then. I wish I had learned all that Blossom is now teaching me. It maybe could have changed Brooklyn’s life in a positive manner… but that cannot be changed now.

And Blossom is here, mothering us all and healing such a deep wound as best she can.


she really does love to sleep on pillows

It’s not perfect. I won’t lie and pretend everything is sunshine and rainbows. We have plenty to work on, which is the nature of new relationships. There is a wonderful trust though between she and myself. She is very in tune with me which makes working on everything else easier. She catches nuances that we knew existed thanks to Brooklyn and acts upon them. She loves the social aspect that will be a part of her job as a social bridge for J. Kids circle around her and her tail just wags and wags. She has a tremendous foundation of training on which we can build. Now it will be a period of fine tuning her training to see if she is a perfect forever for our family.

I’d be lying if I said I did not want her to be the one. Every day her sweet face and charming nature win me over more and more. She’s pretty much the embodiment of all I could have wished for in a 45lbs standard poodle body. I never saw a smaller dog as his best friend and yet, it’s just fantastic. She races around the apartment with him. She snuggles him to sleep. She checks on him when he’s out of school and before she lets herself sleep for the night.


goofballs before Blossom’s haircut!

There will be challenges. Her obligation to APAW is very important and precious. You cannot run an organization like APAW and not take advantage of your every asset. Blossom is entirely that. It’d be shameful to not forward her genes on to the next generation of service dogs as well as her general way of being. She’ll raise her pups in her own shadow, something that is invaluable. It will be hard when she’s limited by the demands of this obligation but it is not forever. The interruptions to her service will, long-term, seem ever so brief and will only happen a very few times.

J is a unique boy who had a unique need, a whole left wide open in his heart and world and a family struggling to help him. Blossom is a special dog, filled with so much skill and love but a noble job to birth and raise the next generation of service dogs. It’s not a combination that could work for many but we are hopeful it will work for them. If not, then at least for a while Blossom has had a home where she was loved and cherished while she awaited her forever and J had a tremendous friend during his own long wait. It’s truly a win-win for all involved.

We miss Brooklyn and love her. We just happen to love Blossom too, so very much. Onwards and upwards.

Clean Up, Aisle 5!

I am having some anger issues tonight. Something has me ready to spit nails so unlike those who hurt us this year, I am going to do something helpful. There are a lot of new service dog teams out there who  might need this, so here goes.

Your dog will lose their bladder or their bowels at some point when it is bad for them to do so. It happens to every team. It should be an isolated incident but it will most likely happen during the course of your time together. You likely will have a bag with you at all times anyway so here are some handy things to stow in it in case of emergency:

  • Diapers: Yes, you read that correctly. Grab a few diapers, preferably larger than small baby sizes, and have them on the go in your bag. You can clean up a wet mess in no time flat with one of these suckers! Open, throw down, wipe up. Fold the diaper up, throw away. Alternately if diapers aren’t easily had, feminine pads can do in a pinch. Diapers just absorb more!
  • A folded flat cereal box: This one was recommended by a trainer. They suggested having it ready for if you see dog about to squat for an accident, but that is not always possible. If you do have time to get it out before  your dog fully squats you slide it under their rear and let the accident happen there. This was never quite possible for us, accidents occurred too fast.
  • Clorox Wipes: You can usually buy these (or Wet Ones) in travel packages for throwing in your bag and having to wipe an area down quickly after you clean up the mess. It’s your responsibility as the handler to make sure the area is the same when you leave as when you arrive, these go a long way towards that goal!
  • Baggies: You can use large ziploc bags, old plastic shopping bags, or in a pinch dog waste bags to pack up the mess and dispose of it quickly.
  • Hand Sanitizer: Until you can get to soap and water, tide yourself over with trusty old hand sanitizer.
  • If for some reason you cannot clean up or you can only partially clean up the mess, direct staff to the area and offer apologies. They cannot clean up without knowing what’s happened and most are quite understanding. This is most likely to come up with your child is having a hard time with the situation or your dog is actively ill and you need them to get outdoors before the mess gets worse. Never just leave a mess. Your responsibilities as a handler dictate that you make sure that you never leave such a thing behind without at least trying to help.

The most courteous place to dispose of the offending items is obviously outside but sometimes circumstances make this tricky. I found finding a restroom made this easiest as they usually have a bin for sanitary waste. It also allowed a moment for hand washing! Usually, though… Your best bet is to drop it outdoors in the first available bin.

It is also important to remember to not scold your dog. It’s going to do exactly zero good for either of you to do so. Make it a non-thing as much as possible. You clean up, you carry on – preferably stepping outside at the very soonest moment to make sure that if anything else needs doing it can be done somewhere appropriate. It may be sad and shocking when accidents happen but it’s no more fun for them than it is for yourself. Do your best to remain calm, clean up and move on. Believe it or not, most stores have seen worse at some point in their existence.

Hopefully this can help some of my friends who have newly graduated or who are just about to meet their new family member. Good luck out there and remember accidents happen, it’s only when they happen regularly that you have to worry!


A Love Letter

I sound like a broken record and for that, I am sorry. This is grief and I have no sense of closure for this, not for myself and especially not for my son. My words and writing are all I have, so I hope you will bear with me. I hope this will be the last post like this for a while. – N

I wrote a post the day we met Brooklyn. You can read it here. I wrote about her overwhelmingly sweet, loving nature. I did not write more than that really because pictures taken by a dear friend told the story far better than my meager words could have hoped to.

My dear Brookie Cookie,

I cannot believe you are never coming home. I cannot believe that I will never see your face again, hear your tail thump against the floor, feel your cold nose nuzzling me awake. There will be no more morning, afternoon and evening walks. There will be no long chats as we did this or that.

Worse, there will be no sight of the beautiful language you spoke with your boy. People fret when they get a service dog for their child, especially a child like J. They worry that a bond will never occur. You eliminated that worry before we even came home. Your boy showed you that which was most precious to him and you learned, fast, to respect that. You learned that his touches on your tail, nose and ears all meant something. What? I have no idea, but you knew. He knew. You read him even better than me, his own mother, could. You could tell when to give him space or when to push up in his face and make him pay you mind rather than pay mind to that which troubled him. You overcame your lack of desire to give kisses to taste whatever crumbs graced his fingers or his cheeks. You laid close by him when he was shut down and waited until he was ready to engage again, leaving a paw within reach just in case he needed it. You played ball, gifted high-fives and loved him without question or qualification.

Until you, he could not walk through a store. You made it possible.

Until you, a baseball game was out of the question. You made it possible.

Until you, going to school was a battle. You made it possible.

Until you, his vision was unclear and unable to be diagnosed because the exam terrified him. You made it possible.

Until you, we had no peace and only a glimmer of hope. You turned our lives around.

There is no way in this world I could not love you as much as I love my sweet boy. You are a part of his heart and therefore, a part of my own. I would spend all those hours cooking you special meals and hand mixing your food and specially cleaning up after you all over again without question because it is for you and for him. I would walk on fire for you, Brookie. I hope you never, ever forget a home that loved you so deeply as ours. I hope you carry your purple teddy with you wherever you go and no one EVER takes that away from you. That was chosen special for you by a little boy who will never forget you, ever. You will be in the face of every golden he ever meets from now on and that teddy was his way of sharing with you his love of having a special cuddly toy without you getting into trouble.

You will always be in our hearts and we will always be here for you. I can’t accept that this is goodbye. I have to think that some day we will all see you again, even if we have to wait until heaven to do so.

With all my heart,



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. 


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.


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

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.


Before I dive in to this post, just a note for those who missed it on Facebook – We are fundraising to celebrate J’s birthday by sponsoring a class at 4 Paws for Ability! You can read about it here.

This week, J’s hair was showing signs of growing out to a very unsightly mass. My son has sensational hair. It’s luxuriously thick, a beautiful shade of dark brown and soft as can be. The downside of this is that he hates brushing it, so when it grows out to any length because he hates haircuts even more, we have some disasters. His hair got long enough this time that it was in his eyes. I am sure that the Beatles would be impressed with his mop top but neither he nor I were entirely so.


J, Easter Bunny and Brookie B. Thank you Xaverian!

I pitched the idea of a haircut every day. Every day. It was pitched always with low pressure. When something is already a source of major fear and anxiety it is absolutely wrong to add even more stress to it. There is no way that anyone in the situation will learn how to cope if we do that, right? So I pitched the idea gently, made a silly game of discussing it, and let him say “no”. The more he could not see out from under his bangs, the more I asked.

Then, in a moment of potential fail, I bribed. Now, we do not have to bribe in this house usually. True bribing, the offering of an experience or a prize in exchange for doing something desperately disliked, is exceedingly rare. This was a desperate time, it called for desperate measures… like offering a choice of Thomas and Friends trains or track. I asked him if he would like to get a haircut, then get a Thomas train after he finished his occupational and speech therapies on Wednesday…

…And he said yes.

I had to ask him 2 more times to make sure I heard correctly! We gathered the troops and pretty much ran headlong towards a local salon. We weren’t taking any chance of minds being changed.

J has always fought entering salons. He misses nothing. He knows where he is going. Brooklyn and he approached the salon with us and he started to hesitate but entered. It was busy, noisy and crowded. He stayed with us. No screaming, no resisting yet. He waited his turn, an absolute feat for him. A wonderful young woman named Danielle called us back when it was time.

He started to fall apart. I had to remove his coat. This strange but friendly lady was talking to him. He was scared because he’d never been this particular place before and his last memories were not good when it came to haircuts. hairscut

Then the stars, somehow, aligned.

Danielle exhibited a kind, gentle patience. We got his coat off. He sat on my lap. I wore the cape, he did not. He faced me, not the mirror, and he struggled… but when she started the clippers he ceased his screaming in fear and said “that tickles!”. He struggled mightily with all that a haircut entails, but he was not paralyzed with outright terror. He even laughed a couple of times. He allowed two passes of the cool blow drier to remove fallen hair from his head and shoulders, something he’s never done.

He did amazing. 

Now, he is roughly 10lbs lighter and 100 times happier without so much hair on his head. Brooklyn loved on him when he was done and they left side by side, just as they came in. She hated waiting for him while hearing him in distress but did her job exactly as she should.

We chose trains at the store not 15 minutes later, brought them  home, added them to our collection and enjoyed a fun night of playing with them. Now to hope that this experience keeps him aware next time that it won’t be quite so bad. It may not be easy, but it’s not terrible.


Oddly, the same day, we had another new experience.

J talked to a stranger. Spontaneously.

I generally have to prompt him when we are talking with new people. He rarely engages until he’s settled with the new people, which is fine. I wrote this up on my personal Facebook so I hope you’ll forgive my copying and pasting:

When we were leaving his OT/Speech clinic a gentleman (well dressed, handsome, clearly from a more luxurious tax bracket than we plebs) was behind us at a little distance. He caught up as we reached the end of the path to the parking lot, greeted us with a nod as he passed us and went on his way.

Or so he thought.

Jacob called after him. My son, who rarely to -never- talks to strangers without prompting, called spontaneously after the stranger. “HEY!”

The gentleman, being absolutely worthy of that term, turned back. “Yes?”

“Where you going?!” Jacob asked, like a surly little police officer.

“To my car,” the man answered, amused.

“Why?!” asks Officer Jacob.

I stepped in at this point, trying not to cry with laughter more than embarrassment because the man handled it so beautifully and I could not believe it had just happened. He smiled at Jacob and Brookie, waved to us and went about his life. This kid will never cease to surprise me.

My son sounded straight out of Southie, a silly Boston stereotype with his strong questioning. This man, who we have never met and may never meet again, could not have been any more friendly about it. That day, I swear… the universe was all together there for J to succeed however he wished to, so he did. He does everything in his own time, and his own way. I have zero doubts that my son is able to do anything he sets his mind to. He will show us his amazing mind and amazing skills in his own way and time, just as he does now, and I am loving being a privileged spectator on this adventure.

Odds and Ends

So, mama apparently forgets to write. Here’s some miscellany since when last I sat down and updated here.

The end of January started what I believe is the snowiest 30 days in Boston’s history. Seriously we were/are buried. It just kept coming, storm after storm dropping a foot or more and our town was more than negligent in cleaning up after each hit. J gets uncomfortable when just a smidge of snow gets visibly on his shoes, forget having to hoof through snow that was up to his forehead or higher. He did not play in it, he’s still only now coming around to touching or stomping on some of it. It was hard on all of us, especially he and Brooklyn. Hopefully now the weather will slowly improve into a beautiful spring and this boy and his dog can get outside and enjoy the world as they love to do.


Language has been the biggest change in J in the past months. He is saying a lot of purposeful phrases and incorporating new scripts into his day-to-day life. There’s a lot more “I don’t know!” rather than “NO!” in answer to questions and more importantly, his listening and being able to follow directions is continuing to blossom. He says some great sentences now, none of which I can think of off the top of my head of course, and is very warm and engaging to familiar people. His biggest communicative challenge continues to be extending those skills to people outside his familiar circle but that’s what Brooklyn is there for. She brings the people, he can learn to share his charm with her supporting him.


Speaking of Brooklyn, we had out first and hopefully only major fail season. This weather combined with dietary and timing factors led to some embarrassing situations in two different stores. The uptick of this situation is that I believe I am now an expert pit crew. The downside to these situation is that people are not understanding or kind. The staff at 4 Paws for Ability is fantastic though, one of the head trainers talked me through a few strategies and along with fabulous advice from a dog food expert we seem to have Brookie B handling things a lot better. As the weather warms I am looking forward to more excursions to work on her skills in public. She is fully trained already, mind you, it is our job now to keep her fresh and ready for whatever J may need of her.


J’s birthday is in June and he will be a big 5 years old. Our boy, he is so blessed in terms of clothes and toys. He has everything a little boy could ask for plus a dog. This year, our goal is to make his birthday about giving back. Sure, we will do our usual fun traditions on his birthday but we also would like to fundraise in his name to sponsor a training class at 4 Paws for Ability. Sponsoring a class means you fund their refreshments during training, their training materials and their graduation goodies. Our class was sponsored by one of the area universities and they spoiled us rotten.

Watch this space for further details. Maybe we’ll even be able to sponsor more than one class, time will tell!

Done Her Job

Last night was a doozy. J has these episodes where he wakes up and if he can’t be immediately soothed back to sleep, the world somehow ends. The crying and falling apart is heartbreaking to see and extremely difficult to settle.

Brookie doesn’t like to hear her boy upset. She gets agitated so once she came into the bedroom with us, she hopped on the bed. J’s initial reaction is to push her away. Brooklyn is a sensitive girl but not when it comes to this – she knew her job. She pushed close and laid her head across him (the “lap” command, which she’s been shown to do at these times before). She kept him firmly snuggled between herself and me until he was dozing once more. She looked up, a sort of “yep, did my job” expression, and hopped off to go lay in her bed in the living room once more.

This morning, some of the same unsettled behavior returned as we headed into school. Again, Brooklyn did her job. He was upset walking down the hallway so she nudged him with her nose to get his attention. He was fine by the time he entered his classroom and we’re hoping for a great day.

It’s hard to explain to people what Brooklyn’s jobs actually boil down to when it comes to behavior disruption. The behaviors she’s responding to, like the crying and the agitation, are things that we have shown her are things she should be responding to. It is a very hard process, showing Brooklyn this, because your instinct is to focus on soothing your child rather than teach a lesson to anyone else about it. You want to comfort them yet sometimes your repertoire does not include the needed antidote for what ails them. This is Brooklyn’s cue to step in and step up. It is a process that began the day they met and slowly grows a tiny bit every day until we have moments like we’ve had this week where she successfully brings him back to a good place faster than we could have without her. She offers a sense of uncomplicated peace and reassurance that not even a parent can quite muster. Parents grow impatient. Parents get anxiety. Parents feel their child’s hurt and pain. Brooklyn sees past it. She sees a situation she’s been taught before and knows that when her boy is calm again, so many good things happen. She knows that no matter what, he will be calm again even when the people standing around think he’s lost for a long time. Patiently, peculiarly and perfectly she loves J back to his best self and marches on with her day once she has.

She is such a good girl, this Brooklyn. She is confident enough to withstand the initial rebuffs her boy might give, sensitive enough to know when he needs her despite the rebuffing and silly enough to always be able to do something unexpected to make him giggle once more. This is one hell of a learning process but I have to say I am loving every minute of it. Every day, these two do something that amazes me. There’s little better in this world than that.


This morning we attempted something I rarely attempt on our own anymore: A trip to IHOP (International House of Pancakes is now just IHOP, apparently).

Now, in the past, J and I would regularly go out to eat together. That was in the days before preschool took over his schedule more than therapy and our days became a lot more completely regimented. We would frequently drive to IKEA for their lovely potatoes and bacon that would cost us a lump sum of $5 for our entire meal together. We would venture to IHOP occasionally, mostly with success. There was one trip to Fridays that was…. okay. Not great, not terrible either, but this is par for the course with J and restaurants in general whether it’s with a few people or just us.

Today, I got crazy? Ambitious? Mentally unglued? I decided since we had gift cards, why not give my beloved IHOP a try. We had Brooklyn with us of course, so it could not be that bad, right?

Wrong. Well, kind of wrong. Sort of maybe halfway wrong.

We got seated pretty much next to the cashier and hostess. This boded poorly from the start. When you couple that with the fact that it was hot as blazes in there, we were not off to an auspicious start. I got Brooklyn under the table, no small feat, and then J was refusing to sit. The cushion on the bench on one side of the booth was torn. I guide him to the other bench and we get settled. Drinks and food are ordered and then of course all hell breaks loose.

It wasn’t as bad as say, Brooklyn eating off someone’s plate or J hanging from the rafters but it wasn’t anywhere near what would be deemed socially acceptable. J kept creeping under the table, startling Brooklyn and sending her skittering out into the path of traffic. She’d need to be coaxed back under the table, so it took a bit to move her out of the way. Then, J insisted on hanging his head off the end of the bench… into the line of traffic. This was followed by the fall into the middle of the floor routine which was only interrupted briefly by three bites of the whipped cream and chocolate chips on his “birthday pancake”, as he dubbed it.

Bless the waitress’ heart, she never flinched. She appeared at all the right times and brought all the right things. The moment she saw the antics of our party, she was lovely and accepting.

I was genuinely ready to gather up the gang, pay and go out to the car for a good cry once everyone was settled. Then this happened:


J had vanished in the single second I had taken to actually drink some of my beverage and I had not seen him walk away from the table. I looked down and there these two were, peering out at the restaurant around us from under the table. She nuzzled his hands as he patted her and assumed her “best buddy” position beside him while he leaned against her.

So yes, our trip was pretty much a disaster but when you get to see a child that has problems making connections with people throw all this trust on the paws of a friend who simply loves her buddy in return, it’s not all that bad is it. He felt unsafe and uncomfortable. She reassured and centered him, all without anyone outside of them doing anything.

I hope all episodes of failcakes end this way and that these two have a lot more years to come.

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