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Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Boy And His Dog

I wanted to give everyone a little update about how our first week with Jet has gone. First of all, it has flown by and it's been really awesome. The first night we had Jet, he slept in his crate. We wanted to try letting him sleep with Korban but also wanted to let him settle in a little too. Let me explain that Korban has always had trouble sleeping and has NEVER slept in his own bed. We do use melatonin and that helps a great deal but still, me or Brad always have to lay down with Korban and help him fall asleep. He has trouble settling himself down to fall asleep so we would do something to help him unwind, like snuggle him tightly or rub/scratch his back. Once he falls asleep, he awakens very easily. So if we try to get up it usually wakes him up and we have to start the whole process again. 

So the second night we talked to Korban and told him Jet wanted to sleep with him. He seemed impressed by this and wanted to try it. He went and got in his car bed and Jet hopped right up there with him. I sat beside them on the crash pad until they fell asleep. I got up to slip out and Korban stayed asleep but Jet woke up and followed me to the door. I didn't really know what to do, but I happened to think and pointed at Korban's bed and said "Kennel!" That's the command we give him to get him to go in his crate or get in our vehicle. Turns out it works on car beds too!  Jet hopped right back in bed like "Cool, I get to stay here?  I didn't know. Thanks, Mom!"  Korban came and got in bed with us at about 4:00 that morning but that was a long stretch of sleep in autism land. 

The next night was even better. Since the previous night had gone so well I wanted to see how it would go if I just tucked them in and let Korban try to fall asleep in his own. Like I said, he's 9 and that's never happened. I told them goodnight and that I would be close by if he needed me. Korban said "I'm scared!"  I told him that there was nothing to worry about, that Jet was there with him, mommy and daddy were in the next room, and that God is always watching over us. And then I started to walk out. Korban called out "Close the door," and I pulled it part of the way closed. He said "ALL THE WAY, MAMA!" I couldn't believe my ears but I shut the door. I guess he really wanted to make sure Jet didn't jump ship. Ha!  But here's the amazing part--we didn't hear a peep out of them until the next morning!!!  It was really funny because I had just had this discussion with Brad about how I didn't want to heap a bunch of unrealistic expectations on Jet right off the bat.  We knew he was going to be a huge asset to our family but I didn't want everyone to be expecting miracles everywhere we went. But seriously, after our kid went to sleep on his own and slept through the night I was like "SWEET JESUS, THERE HAS BEEN A MIRACLE IN THIS HOUSE!" Never underestimate the power of a good nights sleep!  It just meant so much to us that Korban felt that comfortable and safe with Jet. That's a big breaththrough with Korban's anxiety; his separation anxiety in particular. 

Be still my heart...

Korban hasn't slept through the night every single night, but he has slept much better. If he gets up, Jet gets up with him. For example, one night Korban had a nosebleed. He gets them frequently. So he came to tell us and Jet came with him. Korban wasn't upset or anything, which was good. He hates nosebleeds and crying just makes them worse. We got his nose to stop bleeding and he headed back to his room. I offered to let him sleep in our bed the rest of the night and he refused. He said "No, I sleep in here with Jet." Impressive! 

Several people have asked me how Jet reacts when Korban has a meltdown. My answer is I don't know yet because amazingly enough, Korban hasn't had a major meltdown in the week Jet has been with us. I'm sure the opportunity for Jet to help deal with a meltdown will come soon, but Korban seems calmer and happier with Jet around and it's been a really good week. 

Korban did have to go to timeout yesterday for throwing his plate in the kitchen after he finished his lunch. He was mad because he had eaten enough and I told him no more food right then. And it was buffalo chicken, one of his favorite things, so hearing no was hard and he acted out impulsively. He had to sit in his room for five minutes. Jet went to timeout with him. I was listening outside the door and after a few minutes I heard Korban talking to Jet. It was so funny and cute. He said "I threw my plate. *deep sigh* It was a bad choice." Apparently Jet is a good listener because when the timer went off Korban came out of his room and apologized to me. Pretty cool!  

Please continue to keep us in your prayers. It is a big adjustment for all of us, Jet included. Poor Selah is a little jealous, and we've been dealing with some behavior from her due to that--namely being whiny and kind of clingy, which she usually isn't. She adores Jet, I think it's just a little hard for her because in her eyes it seems like Korban had this really cool thing happen to him and she's feeling a little shortchanged.  She is happy for Korban though and she's honestly a big help. One morning I found her with a washcloth gently cleaning Jet's paws after his walk. I would've never thought to ask her to do that, she just took it upon herself to pitch in when she saw his paws were wet from the grass.  I'm very thankful for how well things are going. We all love Jet, and he seems quite happy with us too. :)

He has to go back to his trainer this Tuesday for a vet apt to get his teeth cleaned. Gotta keep him healthy! And Charles will do some "fine-tuning" with Jet's training. All of this was planned and is normal.  It doesn't mean anything is wrong, so if you see us out without Jet don't worry. He will be coming back soon to stay permanently. That being said, I miss that sweet dog already and am a little worried how Korban will react, especially at bedtime. But this is all part of the process and it will be good. Just keep the prayers coming and please know we appreciate everyone's support and encouragement more than I can say!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Bringing Jet Home!

Homeward bound with a hound!

That's right, it's time for Jet to come home.  Not for good just yet but for a week of bonding.  One might think that the training for an autism service dog would mainly be for the child and well,  the dog.  Jet has been in training his entire life for this moment, over 2 years actually.  Then, as with most things we have ventured into in order to help Korban, we find out that we the parents, the adults, but mainly me (primary caregiver) have to go to work. *Puts game face on*

We learned early on, after struggling so much, that for real change to happen WE had to learn and adapt more than we expected Korban to do.  The way we saw it was we were the adults and were able to change and Korban was not there yet.  With our willingness to change things in our lives and learn all we could came positive changes for Korban. This opportunity with Jet as Korban's service dog is no different.  Jet's primary duty is to Korban but Korban is not yet able to be the handler so we must fill this gap for him.  To do this our own training is necessary to know what to do and what not to do for the benefit of both Jet and Korban.

Public access training and testing is very important and that was some of the focus as we met Charles at a park in Senatobia, MS to do a group training with three other families that are also getting service dogs. The weather was beautiful and we were so glad to see Jet. 

Ready to get to work! 

The training was mainly for me as I will be considered Jet's handler but Korban participated more than I even expected him too. I was really proud of that! 

Geez, I look serious in this one! Must be that game face. 😆

We had a really good time, learned some things, and got to meet some cool new people. Best of all: 

We got to bring Jet home!!!! We are SO excited. He will stay with us until next Tuesday, and then he goes back to Charles for a short time for a teeth cleaning and some fine-tuning of his training. Hopefully the week after that he will come home to us permanently!  We will have an official graduation ceremony with some other recent graduates probably in October. 

We have been looking forward to this day for so long and I can't believe it's finally here!  This week we are mainly going to focus on bonding with Jet and getting to know him. We just want him to be happy and feel loved as he helps to care for our precious boy. I can't even put into words how much I already love this dog. We are so grateful to all of you that have encouraged us and supported us on this journey. Please keep us in your prayers!  I still have a ways to go in my training. I'm having trouble using an authoritative tone when I give commands. Partly because seasonal allergies are not my friend right now and every time I try to sound stern my voice cracks like a teenage boy's. 😆
I'll get the hang of it though. Jet is a great dog and so well trained. We are so grateful for Retrieving Freedom and the work Charles Dwyer does. He really has a gift for training dogs and I'm so glad he and his family share it in the way they do. We've been given an awesome (four-legged) gift and we just want to be good stewards. 

Resting between both kids in the van, eyes on Korban. I think maybe he likes us. 💙