Meet Challenger (aka Challie, aka Charlie, aka TBA):
Last week, my spouse posted about the varied reasons that we decided to enhance our family of four (plus a guinea pig named Jinee) to a family of five. Little did we expect that the perfect dog for our family would arrive less than a week later (Oh my Gosh).
It has not been an easy transition, but it has been a meaningful one thus far. When we met Challenger, there were several other dogs there as well, and the barking and chaos set our little girl with Autism into a “sensory-overdose tailspin”. “Back to the car, I want to go home!”
We couldn’t help her settle down, and so she never did get to meet him. She stayed on the other side of the room, in my spouse’s and my arms, while our son and us moms took turns meeting him, playing with him, and seeing if he felt like the right fit.
We were blessed that the rescue allowed us to “foster” Challenger. We knew we’d have to ease the meet-and-greet on our own turf, and that whether our daughter could “take” to the new dog was a very big “if.” To my sons disappointment, we went home dog-less, and proceeded to puppy-proof (he’s two, but still) the entire house all day. My spouse showed our girl pictures of Challenger and other dogs. They drew pictures. They talked about the fun, and the responsibilities.
The next day, I took our daughter to the pet store. I let her pick his leash, harness, bowls, toys, all blue (her choice). Then the time came. My son and I went to pick him up. He had the biggest grin of delight. He knew it was a foster arrangement, for now, with the hope that it would be a forever home. “But what if we can’t keep him,” he asked. “It will be sad, but we’ll forgive each other, okay?” “Okay,” and he meant it.
Still, I was worried. I didn’t want to disappoint him. My spouse had sneezed since visiting the rescue. My daughter was anxious. Please, please, let this be right.
I was also concerned about all the warnings I received from friends, from “No, don’t do it” to things like, “think about it MORE!” The warnings made it hard to take a risk. Truthfully, bringing a dog into our lives is a risk: a risk of broken hearts, the dog’s and ours. But it felt right, and the dog felt like the right dog, and my son was already in love. We got the best message from a dear friend, “Good luck. We’re so excited for you, and if it doesn’t work out, that’s okay, we love you.” I thanked her profusely, as we didn’t know if it would work, and would want our heartbreak to be tempered by the love of friends.
It’s been two days. The first day was exhausting and difficult. “Challie” and our girl couldn’t be in the same room at the same time. She was so scared. The dog was nervous in his new surroundings. I was nervous. Our son held it together best of all, being an uber-responsible dog owner and keeping a calm that was inspiring to watch.
The stroke of genius was all Natacha’s. In a moment of great calm, while Challenger was getting a belly rub, she took a video. She showed it to our little girl, who started petting the screen, “Pet, pet, I want to pet.” She was ready, and Challenger performed beautifully. He was calm, slow, gentle; and so was she. I gave her puppy treats to give him, and she loved it. Noah beamed, and I cried. There is hope!
3 walks a day, a lot of training, exhaustion and more sensory moments will come; but we are hopeful. I’m also just so proud. Of my daughter, my son, my wife and her genius, and our new dog. It’s early yet, but the progress is palpable. Fingers crossed, and hearts open.
I now understand the bumper sticker, “Who Rescued Who?”