A year ago last month, my son fairly exploded off his bus before sprinting down the sidewalk and into the house.
“Mom,” he began, not noticing the plate of cookies on the table. A string of incoherent words burst from his mouth. I caught a few of them as they whipped by. They were scary words. Horrible words. Words like service animal and demonstration at school and volunteer. And the worst words of all: “Can we raise a service dog, Mom?”
This was clearly one of those “oh shit” parental moments: Despite the fact that what my son wanted to do was good and just and noble, I really had no interest in allowing him to participate. Couldn’t he be a do-gooder another way, in a way that didn’t involve bringing animals into our home?
“OK, Squints, how many pets do we have living in this house right now?
He ventured a guess: “Eight?”
One turtle. A frog. Various fish. A hamster. A couple of cocoons, containing some unknown creatures. A cat. And yes, a dog. “We do not need another animal in this house.” I didn’t want to discourage him, at least not blatantly: How could I surreptitiously prevent him from getting involved? “You’ll have to call the woman who spoke today.” Heh heh heh…He’d never do that. “Get more information from her.”
He took a cookie from the plate and crunched into it. “Done. She’s calling tonight.”
Squints handed me the application the next day. “I’m not filling that out. This is your project, not mine.” Heh heh heh.
Twenty minutes later, he handed me the completed application. And he’d filled it out neatly.
I pointed to the application. “What about references? You need to line some up.” Heh heh heh.
The little bugger picked up the phone and began dialing. Slowly the idea of Squints raising a service animal was becoming a reality.
Squints was approved. He began waiting. He attended club meetings. He waited. He cared for other service dogs in our club. He waited. He attended group events. He waited. He despaired of ever getting a puppy. He waited. Finally, after one year of waiting, he heard the news: Squints was getting his puppy.
“This is your project, Squints,” I told him, after he got off the phone. “Not mine.”
The day of the pup’s arrival, Squints dragged a chair to the front door and sat there, shivering in the cold. He waited. He read one book, then two. He waited. He ate lunch. He waited. “They’re not coming,” he said, dragging the chair away from the front door and slumping onto the couch. “I know they’re not coming.” And then there was the unmistakable sound of a car pulling up the curb.
Squints exploded from the couch and ran to the door.
It was love at first sight.
Love fades, however, when you’re the only one constantly cleaning up accidents. It fades, too, when you’re the one who has to get up in the middle of the night to take a whining puppy out for a break. It fades when you’re the one who has to feed the puppy on a rigid schedule. It fades when the pup is chasing the family dog and when the pup is attacking the cat and the house is in a constant uproar. It fades when all you want to do is have a moment’s peace, but the pup is looking at you with those deep brown eyes wanting to play. It fades when you’ve had only six hours of sleep.
It didn’t take too long to realize that Squints was in deep: He was cranky. He was exhausted. The thrill was most certainly gone. It quickly became apparent that a ten year old boy cannot handle all the work that raising a service puppy entails. So now, my husband gets up in the middle of the night to accompany Squints and the pup outside. I take the pup on some of his walks. My daughters take a turn at entertainment.
This pup is not Squints’ project. Like it or not, he is our family’s project. And watching Squints speak confidently this morning about that project to a group of eighty preschoolers and their teachers, I know that it’s completely worth it.
To MB, who introduced Squints to the idea of raising a service animal.
Labels: Community, Homeschooling, Raising Children, Service Animals