learning to navigate the world, j-bear style

Tag: operation j to dog

Where We Are

I look at where we are today and I cannot help but to be awed and humbled.

Last year,  midway through our fundraising for 4 Paws, I wrote a post about how important the dog would be to us and how yes, I am very determinedly focused on the cause of getting the dog and getting to the dog. You see, I had been mocked. I had been mocked harshly for working on “my precious dog” like it was some frivolous, useless cause.

That person is gone. They didn’t get to continue this journey with us. It feels like the rest of the world took their place instead and it blows me away.

When you engage in the 4 Paws for Ability program, it changes your life before you even meet your dog. You apply, you speak with Karen Shirk, the executive director and you sort out just what would be best for you and your family. 4 Paws is good at what they do. They know how to best help our kids, even when we’re not entirely sure of that ourselves. Then they link you up with a support group filled with families who have stood where you stood. The group combines new families just starting their fundraising, people who are finished fundraising and await their assigned training class and families already with their dogs. There is additional support from families and individuals who foster dogs and support the 4 Paws program.

You are never alone on the journey, not even when you truly feel like you are.

Then of course angels step in your path all along the way, like the Ride to Give Army, like all the absolutely amazing people – friends, family, strangers alike – who helped us raise the initial funds to be placed in our class. You make lifelong friends and your family simply grows. People get to know your child and join their journey…

I said to my mother Monday that my son finds his people. This journey, from the start til today, is living proof.

Twelve days stand between now and when my son will meet his friend, his companion and his helper. We do not know what they look like yet or what their name is, but the moment I do believe me I will be shouting it from the rooftops. If I could there’d be billboards from here to Boston and back again to celebrate the occasion! Everyone will know and when there are photos of them meeting, I will be quick to share them too.


Because it’s the help of all of you that made it possible. You’re bringing a boy and his precious dog together. Like our fundraising t-shirts said… There’s nothing like a boy and his dog.


The image from our t-shirts, courtesy of the generous Derek Benson.

PS: For those new to the blog, I refer to dog regularly as Dog to be Named Later. I was a seven season employee of the Boston Red Sox. Baseball has a wonderful place in our family, hence the dog’s current in flux name being that. 🙂

Everyday Miracles


J doing what J does best: consume donuts.


Where do I even start this post. I am going back and forth between shaking and crying and for one of the rare few times in my life, it is not over something horrible happening.

That’s what I am used to, you know? Bad news, all that good stuff. I am a pro at disasters. You give me something amazing and I walk around it warily like it’s a velociraptor preparing to strike.

But goodness comes. Miracles happen, and they come out of the clear sunny blue.

Not too long ago the organization Ride to Give  helped one of J’s classmate’s family fundraise to get them from their home to Ohio for training with their service dog. We applied, but we continued fundraising on our own. And everyone – We did a great job. Every one of you who shared, who donated, who participated in the giveaway, and who just supported us made it pretty good. We raised part of what we needed – enough for one major cost, but we still had a shortfall.

Then I get a message: We can help. We had, that same day, sat looking at numbers and realizing the enormity of what lay before us. Medical bills, car repairs, household expenses… Life adds up, and it’s been adding up fast this year. J’s dog is so, so important to him; to his future and his comfort that any sacrifice was on the table to make this happen for him.

This tremendous organization showed up and has reached out to help remove our greatest burdens of fear and stress. Ride to Give has taken up J’s cause and is helping us raise additional funds for our travel and our dog’s care.

There are not enough words. There are not.

To those who found us through Ride to Give, thank you. You are giving a family peace. You are helping my son meet a service dog who will see him through hard days to come. Medical tests will no longer need to require horror. Visits to new places will not need to be faced like a battle in a long war but instead the adventure they actually are. He will have comfort. He will have security. He will have an even brighter future, and now, you’re all a part of it. Welcome to our little online family. I look forward to sharing J meeting his dog with all of you.

Thank you. The words are small, but they’re from my heart and I cannot say them enough. Thank you.

J’s campaign can be found here: https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/bsve8/ab/b3pd72

Congratulations, Janice!

We have a winner for our iPad Mini Giveaway!

So cooperation wasn’t our strong suit, though I can confidently say that J did a fabulous job making sure the drawing was really and truly random. He is actually still playing with the entries! A huge congratulations to Janice Vincent on winning the iPad Mini, which I will ship out this week to you!

Thank you to everyone who shared the giveaway, entered, and supported us on this journey. We have raised $2600 towards our travel expenses, which is a pretty big deal! The donation links will remain up if anyone is still interested but we will have no further fabulous prizes beyond the satisfaction of knowing you helped an awesome boy to meet his awesome dog.

Thank you again, everyone. This process has brought us so many new friends. It’s like we’ve gained a whole village we never would have had otherwise and words will never be enough to express that gratitude.

4 More Days

That’s right. 4 more days until the Great Mini Giveaway!

4 more days to help us get J to Dog.

4 more days until the 30 days til Ohio mark is crossed.

4 more days to spread the word!

It is sinking in more and more how real Dog to Be Named Later is. The September class will be graduating on Friday as well, preparing to return home to their completely changed lives now that their own dogs have come to join their families. We then settle in for the wait to learn who J’s match is.

Will it be a boy or a girl? Will it be a lab, a golden, a golden lab, a goldendoodle, or some wildcard we had not even considered? Will J fall in love with their photo or will it be love at first sight when they are in person beside each other?

So many questions that YOU can be part of the answer to! If you have not done so yet, please consider sharing the Great Mini Giveaway (linked above) on social media. J and I will do the drawing on Friday and post it both here and on Facebook for everyone to cheer for the winner!

Thank you to everyone who has so generously donated, shared and supported us in this effort so far. This next month is going to be one of the most exciting times in our lives and I cannot wait to share it with all of you!

60 Days and Questions

Today marks 60 days until J meets his fur-ever friend. It would be a complete understatement to say we are excited. He is understanding finally what we are going to be doing and he, like most 4 year olds, wants results right this second. He has a stuffed Nonie (Baby Nonie Dog) and I am trying to keep him as busy as I can manage. He does not start school until September 9th however, so until then I am going to be hearing a lot about “Yeh-no” and “Nonie Dog”.

I could not be happier.

Since we have engaged in full boogie tilt fundraising for our trip, I have received a lot of comments and questions various places. The biggest comment is on the amount we fundraised initially to receive J’s dog: $13,000.

That’s a big amount, unless you’re some ginormously wealthy soul. That’s an overwhelming on paper to a small family. It is true that most if not all of the people I talk to regularly or know cannot simply plunk that down. It’s just not possible, and thus makes a service dog for our children seem wildly out of reach.

4 Paws knows this. They get this. They do not want their dogs to be inaccessible due to money. This is why when you get accepted into the program, the agreement you sign is not to pay $13,000* but to fundraise and share the mission of 4 Paws for Ability. It is but a part of the cost to raise and train our dog, and in fundraising we’re raising community awareness of just what service dogs can do for the disabled – both children and adults, though 4 Paws keeps their focus on children and veterans.

We spent 6 months fundraising. It was hard. There were times it was absolutely painful, I dare to say, yet it is so worth it. It is worth it beyond the amount we raised, and worth it beyond what I can put into words. That money will provide my son with something I could not otherwise give him: He will have a companion and a guardian in this dog. He does not have to be scared. His family does not have to be scared. If, God forbid, J ever got away from us this dog will track him down straight away.

That. That right there, added to everything else this dog will be trained to task for, can’t have a price tag placed on it.

We have also gained through this process a phenomenal support group of 4 Paws families. I have made some fantastic friends and look forward to making more through this journey. We also gain a backup. If anything should happen with J’s dog, they’re there for us. If the dog needs refresher training, they are there for us. If we have any confusion or struggles once we are home, they’re a phone call away. They want us to succeed and give us every tool by which to do so.

Is it worth $13,000? Yes. Again and again, yes.


*= The current amount one must fundraise if they join the program today is $14,000. This is still just a part of the $22,000-$24,000 it takes to breed, raise, train and support a well-trained service dog.

The Great Mini Giveaway!

I am so excited to announce our Great Mini Giveaway is underway!

Two months from now, we will know who our match is and even better, we will be in our hotel in OH giddily awaiting meeting our new family member.

We are giving away an iPad Mini to help defray the costs!

How’s that work you ask?

For every $10 donated, we will give you 1 chance to win this giveaway! Every $50 gets you 6 chances! Just think, if you win you’ll get to relax with an adorable iPad Mini and feel good about helping a boy meet his service dog every time you use it for all your iPad needs.

All of the details are here: https://www.jbearandme.com/the-great-mini-giveaway

Please feel free to share, share, SHARE our story! The giveaway will be made on September 26th at 8pm EST! CORRECTION: The drawing will be made at noon on 9/27 to allow the grand master himself to be at his most camera ready! 

Future Tense

My heart is still so heavy about a man I never met. Maybe I am just so sad because the turmoil seems so very familiar and thus, so very painful. Maybe I am sad because, looking back at his body of work, he was one of those faces that has always been in the world since I was a child. It’s hard to say, but the sad remains.


I am in this weird state, and it is generally surrounding J’s dog. We under 80 days until we meet his dog and it feels so much like when I was waiting for J to be born but with markedly less discomfort and cravings for strange things. All of the fear, anxiety, anticipation, excitement and eagerness collide on a regular basis but thankfully for now in a low-key manner. I want to know his dog. I know 4 Paws will pick his right dog. I cannot wait to see J with this dog, and see the life changing things his friend Z is going through right now.

Then there is the panic. The “oh my God I have this, this, this, this and oh my god this that needs to be done!” and the panic over fundraising to help us along in paying for our long stay out there… My stars. I don’t know if this is just part of my own general weirdness or not but when there is a lot to do, I can get paralyzed real quick. I am trying to work it down into bite sized pieces but the pieces are all sort of on hold. It’s hard to do a lot of the heavy work while J is out of school, and he does not go back til September.

See, that is the other part in all this. J is out of school for several weeks now. Children like J thrive on routine. That is when he learns and grows the best and is happy. He does not have it in the sense he needs it right now. We had a down day today, for example, and while he did mostly fine he lost it right around bedtime. Bedtime is the same time every day, mind you, but without the busy busy busy day leading up to bedtime, bedtime gets downright insane.

How do I add a dog to our crazy? Will the dog really help our crazy? I ask myself so many questions, but following the tales of other families I am slowly having more faith that the dog will do exactly what we need them to do. They will fit our lives just fine, and they will enrich our lives.

J is still talking about Nonie Dog. He is so giddy about the Nonie Dog in his mind, but I still do not think it will truly matter what dog we get. Any dog will be loved, and he loves animals regardless. I think it is just such a fun name for him to say, and he truly does enjoy her sweet face, so the association is happy and positive and will I pray make this addition to our lives easier.

Could I be any more all over the map? Welcome to my brain, internet.

In closing, here’s our countdown counter – It’s also on the right side of the main blog page:


Odds and Ends

For those just joining us this evening, there is a fundraiser you can find information on here: https://www.jbearandme.com/fundraising-with-thirty-one/ — It’s a Thirty-One party and 20% of all the sales go to Operation J to Dog. The party ends April 24th!


J actually missed school today because of, get this, an extreme aversion to pants.

Don’t we all have these days? Today just happened to be his.

Pants eventually did happen, but it was a tough day. There really does seem to be a pattern developing between unsettled weather and J having a more difficult time coping with things that otherwise are not an issue. I am hoping that this passes as the weather passes but it remains to be seen.


Progress is the name of the game for J of late. Listening to how his language is developing is quite simply fascinating. He is communicating, with people he is comfortable with, in his own way and in his own time. He mimics like a pro of late, and he uses what language he does know to try to make his wants and needs known. “Get out!” when I am not turning into the parking lot he wished me to, “Push!” when he wishes me to be in a different lane while driving, “Hop on!” to demand me join him on the bus (LOVED this one)…. Lots of little phrases and mega personality.

Today he met several babies when we were out and about and he was so curious and actually initiated teaching one small girl how to take turns! This is huge, both for his communication struggles and for the fact… he’s not even four, and what child of that age group is an expert in sharing?! I was blown out of the water and proud. He can be a bear when he wants but at heart, my son is so very sweet, caring and gentle. It amazes me. He has a lot of cards in his past that pull towards a manner very opposite that and he’s proving he can overcome genetic predisposition in that regard.


There are days I worry about the service dog decision. I wonder if I am overstating need and so on, because a brain on an anxiety disorder is frankly a jerk and loves to create doubts and fears. This past week it has occurred to me that the dog could provide something huge for J I had not anticipated and that is a constant to allow for him to better generalize his skills. The dog can be everywhere with him, and provided that others will be willing to be consistent handlers, he or she can go where I will not be. This is tremendous for J. It will help him carry skills that only occur in specific locations with specific people translate to other places and folks. It will be the invitation for him to open more doors and leave them open, sharing himself with the world at large.

That is so very exciting! I do want the world to see what a hilarious and engaging child he is when he’s with those who know him best. He’s trying to be it everywhere, but something gets lost in translation. It can be yet another thing his dog can help with.


Opened with fundraising now ending with fundraising: Mid to late May we might do an iPad Mini raffle. Details will follow about how to purchase tickets and the date of the drawing. Hopefully this can be our biggest fundraiser to get J to his dog in October!

Fundraising with Thirty-One!

Our current fundraising for Operation J to Dog stands at $250.

Let’s blow that out of the water!

I am hosting a fundraising party through my Thirty-One business! You can check it out here: https://www.mythirtyone.com/shop/catalog.aspx?eventId=E4431134&from=DIRECTLINK

This April, you can get the All Pro Tote or the All Pro Duffle for $25 with every $35 spent!


they are indeed as awesome as they look!


check out all the fancy colors!

Now, the straps are $10 each but $35 dollars for a sturdy, spacious and good looking gym bag is pretty great if you ask me. I have the Graffiti Dot tote and LOVE it. A few weeks ago I put an iPad, two chargers, a pair of little boy sneakers, two changes of little boy clothes, a teddy bear, a stuffed Chica, my wallet, and two cups into the tote with a little room to spare. It blew me away and truly saved the day.

Personalization is extra and you can view all the personalization options here: https://www.mythirtyone.com/content/embroidery.aspx

Please note that nothing in this blog represents the views of Thirty-One and vice versa. I’m just excited to offer nifty bags to help raise money to get J to his pup! 20% of all sales will go in the travel fund.

If you have any questions, please contact me at mamabear @ jbearandme.com — If you would like to donate directly to us, you can do so at our Razoo page! It’s located here: http://www.razoo.com/br/causes/Operation-J-To-Dog

This party will end at midnight on 4/24/2014 with all orders being processed at that time – If you need something sooner please contact me and we can see what can be done!

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