1 Boy + 2 Dogs = A Love Story
There once was a boy named Jack. He had parents that loved him unconditionally and immensely, an incredible older sister always watching out for him, grandparents all over the country that doted as expected, and a really great dog. He had always had this dog. The dog had been a part of the family almost twice as long as Jack had been. The dog was the best dog in the whole world, which was nice, because Jack was also the best little guy in the whole world--sweet, loving, sometimes too rambunctious....like his dog, Gretsch.
|Walk Now for Autism Speaks, 2011|
As Jack got older his parents noticed that his development seemed to become significantly and noticeably different than that of his peers. As a toddler he had taught himself to read, but he wouldn't look very many people in the eye. He made witty and hilarious jokes to entertain his family, but would curl up like a turtle when outside his cocoon. He could create elaborate, multi-faceted stories and characters that could arc in a hundred directions without Jack losing sight of one detail, but he couldn't write* down his ideas or draw them. Jack's family learned just before his 7th birthday that he had been born with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
|Gretsch, 12 years-old|
As Jack got older, what had always looked like standard tantrums were becoming more frequent instead of waning. His family came to realize that these were not decisions that Jack was making, but that his body was overwhelmed and had no other way to release the energy (frustration, stimulation....) that had been accumulating throughout the day. But as Jack got older and less comfortable, so did Gretsch. His very sweet, loving and no longer so rambunctious dog. Jack of the wide-ears and big-eyes noticed that when he became a little too loud, his dog looked sad. So Jack would stop and redirect himself, make a compromise, take-ten (whatever it took to bring the volume down to a place in which everyone could be comfortable again) and pet his dog. The symbiosis was a beautiful thing to behold. What an incredible therapeutic upside to loving our family pet.
But then the dog got very sick and within 4 months of being diagnosed, passed away. Of course this was a tremendous loss for the entire family, and for the community of friends and family that knew this Buddha of a dog, but oh, for Jack.... The pain, the loss, the confusion, the sadness. And Jack's behavior changed. His dog would never be replaced. No dog could ever be as amazing. This was a disaster. (But wait, there is a happy ending, or so the title of this post suggested...)
|Trixie, 7 Months|
Three months later, after the deliberation and false-starts of the previous months, Jack's family decided it was time to trade the mourning for mornings. All four of them bundled up and rushed over to the shelter. The decision had been made and there was no time to lose. They met another sweet, loving and (very) rambunctious dog, fell in love, adopted her and named her Trixie. They took her home that night and she bonded quickly with the family....except not with Jack. Jack wanted to love her, but she had even more energy than he did. Jack wanted to say sweet things to her, but he didn't want to offend the memory of Gretsch** (who lovingly watches down on us from his.....let's just go ahead and call it a shrine.)
A few days went by and the happiness that the sort-of-puppy brought the rest of the family just wasn't catching up to Jack. Then, one morning, Trixie jumped up into Jack's bed while he was still sleeping. Jack was a happy boy once he is awake, and not so happy while someone is trying to make him be awake. Trixie licked his arm. She licked his ear and his cheek. Jack put his face in his pillow to avoid the wet slap of love headed his way....and put his arm out to hug the new love of his life. And this is definitely not The End.
*Technology is wonderful. Jack "writes" a lot, and some of his stories can be found on his blog, The Amazing Adventure Boy.
**Jack now does tell Trixie that she's "the best dog"....but every compliment must end with one little modifier-- "alive". Trixie is now the best dog alive.