By Marcy White October 30, 2014
I am, and always have been, a dog person. My kids and my husband were not. When I wold stop to pet a dog, my husband would cringe as I let the dog lick my hand or jump on me. My daughters would stand off to the side, far enough away so that the pooch could not reach them – they clearly did not share my love of canines.
Jacob, my eldest child, was scared of animals in general.
Jacob, my eldest child, was scared of animals in general (our two cats, Spot and Spotsbrother, were an exception) and his feelings towards dogs particular bordered on phobic.
Jake loves our cats. At sixteen years old, Spot and Brother (as he is known to his friends) were around before Jacob was born so he grew up with them prowling around the house and climbing on him. Jacob’s face always lights up when our cats are near him. We have spent many hours pushing Jacob’s wheelchair around our house in search of Spot, or simply in an effort to follow Spot, as that activity was sometimes the only thing that would quiet Jake’s multi-hour screaming episodes.
Spot and Brother are great cats but they don’t listen very well. Despite repeated efforts to train them to stay with Jacob, they have minds of their own and do as they please. But, I thought, dogs can be trained and if Jake learned to like dogs, maybe he would enjoy the companionship and unconditional love of a canine friend.
Any time Jake spied a dog walking towards us when we were strolling around the neighborhood his face would blanch, his eyes would open wide and he would start to make the most heart-breaking moans until we crossed the street and the dog was no longer in his field of vision.
It was obvious that Jacob was not a dog lover but I was determined to change his mind.
We started slowly, very slowly, exposing Jacob to some well-trained dogs for very brief periods of time. Over the course of a few years, Jacob started to tolerate some well-behaved, mellow dogs. We gradually stopped having to cross the street if a dog was in the vicinity.
I started thinking about how the addition of a dog to our household would benefit all my kids. I began picturing a little dog curled up on Jacob’s bed and spending the night next to him. I envisioned walking our newest furry family member around the neighborhood, holding the leash in one hand and pushing Jake’s chair with the other.
I began talking to Jacob about getting him a dog and how much fun he would have with his new canine buddy. Gradually he warmed to the idea and was able to let me know that he wanted to name his future dog, Felix.
Jacob’s twin sisters had a different idea. Sierra and Jamie were opposed to us adding a dog to our already hectic household, citing their indifference to dogs (I never wanted to believe that any blood-relative of mind could not be a dog-person) and their concern for the well-being of their geriatric feline brothers.
I came across National Service Dogs located in Cambridge, Ontario.
After some research on my part, I came across National Service Dogs located in Cambridge, Ontario, an organization that trains Skilled Companion Dogs for children with special needs.
Following an extensive application process, which included a letter from Jacob’s physician and an in-home interview, we were informed that Jacob would receive a Skilled Companion Dog from this organization.
The dog that was selected for Jacob was a well-trained, lovable 68 pound golden retriever.
On a Wednesday night as I was preparing dinner, several months after the interview, the phone rang and we received the call we were waiting for: a dog was matched to Jacob and if I could make arrangements to come to Cambridge for training in a few days, I could bring home our newest addition that weekend. I was told that the dog that was selected for Jacob was a well-trained, lovable 68 pound golden retriever whose parents were championship show dogs.
The moment Felix jumped out of my car and my daughters spied his shiny, thick red fur, they were in love. Jamie learned that it possible to cry tears of happiness, as she did just that when she hugged him for the first time.
I was nervous for Jacob to meet the dog we spoke about for so long. Preparing Jake for living with a dog was very different from actually living with one. I wanted their initial encounter to be a positive one so I made sure Felix had some time to run around outside, play with my daughters and expend some energy before the two boys met.
With his leash still attached and plenty of treats in my hand, I walked Felix over to Jacob and introduced them. Felix sat next to Jake’s wheelchair and waited for further instructions. When he was asked to “visit”, our brilliant golden retriever placed his head in my son’s lap and ate a snack that was placed between Jacob’s index and middle fingers.
As Jake laughed, I exhaled the breath I was holding, confident in the knowledge that these two boys would be great friends.
Felix Accompanies Jacob to Medical Appointments
Several months after Felix’s arrival, Jake had a dentist appointment. On the suggestion of Randi, Jacob’s dentist, we brought Felix to see if Felix’s presence would help make Jacob feel more comfortable while his teeth were cleaned. With a slight amount of trepidation, I wheeled Jake with Felix beside him into the medical building, into the elevator, down the hall and into Randi’s office.
This was the first time I brought Felix along to any appointment, I was hesitant and unsure of what to expect. It was worth the gamble though. Felix was a great help to Jake and the office staff were wonderful in accepting Felix’s presence in the tiny examination room.
Buoyed by the successful appointment, once Jake was returned to our car, I called the pediatrician’s office to inquire as to whether I could bring my son for a flu shot.
As arranged, I called the office to let them know we had arrived in front of the office because the nurse agreed to administer the shot in the ‘relative comfort’ of Jake’s car seat. Within a minute or two, Cathy was standing next to Jake’s seat, the needle ready to meet its target. Felix decided this was a perfect time to lick Jacob’s left cheek to distract him from the shot aimed at my son’s right upper arm. Jacob did not feel a thing, other than the warm, moist slobber of Felix’s enormous tongue!
Felix has now been in our family for almost a year and a half. My husband who used to shudder as I bent down to play with a pooch, carries our dog up the stairs at night when Felix is too tired to walk himself. Jamie and Sierra, who didn’t understand they appeal of pooches now stop to pat any dog they see (after asking the owner’s permission of course) and Jacob, the boy who would scream in fear at the sight of a dog, now laughs when Felix stretches out beside him on his bed. Once again proving that Mommy (sometimes) knows best!
This post was originally published on hermagazine.ca