Dogs! Who would have thought? A wiggly, energetic, fur shedding little creature could capture the hearts of so many. We are so blessed to have one of these God given creatures in our life.
One day, Jeff pitched the idea of a dog for the family. He had always grown up with a dog and me a cat. Cats are so much less work than dogs. Why do we want a dog? And then he said, “Having a dog is the closest thing you will get to God’s unconditional love here on earth.” We had a dog within weeks of that conversation.
Jack loves animals but he is not always the most confident around animals. Rae on the other hand commands respect (dogs, horses, reptiles, you name it). In regards to animals, Jack loves their aww factor, the diversity of different species and breeds, and loves stopping an animal while we are on a walk to pet it and ask for its name.
We’ve actually have had 3 dogs in just 11 years. The first one was a Schnauzer puppy who we had to surrender to the breeder after 3 months because it fought for her alpha place in our family. The last straw was when she jumped up and bit Jack while Jeff was hugging him. She was jealous of Jeff’s affection towards anything else than her. The next was Poppy. She was a corgi-terrier mix. She adored the kids, took the best flying superwoman leap into any pool, would talk under her breathe when the kids got too far ahead of her on walks, but she was too “big” for Jack. She had the body of an 80lb dog, but had 6” legs. She had the softest fur, floppy ears and never needed a bath due to the 10lbs of hair she shed every day. She weighed about 40lbs and Jack liked her but never bounded with her the way Rae did.
Poppy passed away unexpectedly one summer and the kids were relentless to get another dog. They did research on what breed they wanted. Poppy was part corgi, so their hearts were set on a pure breed corgi. Jeff and I thought we were done with animals. We were 4 years away from having the kids out of the home for college. But the kids came up with a detailed 1 page promise agreement about how they would care for a dog and take FULL responsibility for it. Jeff’s heart softened and eventually broke… but, he had two requirements, 1) no puppies and 2) nothing that sheds! Hannah arrived a few months later. Full of puppy energy and a thick coat of hair that shed all over the place! “Hannah” is now another member of our family. Jeff says, “I’m the man of my house!” as he smiles.
When Jack was younger, we went to therapy one day and they had a play area for the kids with a rope ladder. The therapist encouraged Jack to climb it to get to the other play equipment. He was around 8 at the time. He stepped on the first rung and tried reaching for the next, but his body just kept leaning back, not making any progress. The therapist kept encouraging him to reach and pull himself up. He couldn’t. His body just wanted to keep leaning back and he couldn’t get the momentum or leverage to grab the next rung. The therapist explained that Jack doesn’t have core muscles that are strong; most kids with autism struggle with physical strength. He pointed out that your core muscles start at the top of your abdominals past your thigh muscles. Poppy, who was a muscular and a heavier dog was difficult for Jack to pick up. Was that why he never really bonded with her?
It wasn’t until we got Hannah that we saw the blessing of having a smaller dog for Jack. She is super soft, kisses you all the time and is extremely playful. Jack can pick her up and snuggle with her. He plays fetch with her. He lays on the ground and she uses his stomach as a bridge to run from one side to the other, licking his face while playing tug of war. She is what he needs.
In the autism world, I feel like I hear so much about sensory with kids on the spectrum. They crave clothes without tags, like certain foods with certain textures, figit toys help, and headphones for sensitivity to noise. I’ve gotten figit toys for Jack but he hasn’t liked any of them. We’ve tried weighted blankets and it created frustration for him. These things didn’t seem to put Jack at ease. What puts him at ease is going home and being greeted by his furry, licking, jumping, Hannah. We were so blessed with the years we had with Poppy who made us really appreciate the corgi breed. I am thankful that we were able to get the type of dog Jack dreamed of. A dog who melts his heart every day. He can reach down and pick her up and snuggle into her plush mane. She has been the best sensory break Jack could ever have.
Jack always tells me that he will never get married and I will not get any grand kids from him. But he says with a big smile, “You’ll get a grand dog though!”