Service Dogs and Marriage

There’s a terrific story in the New York Times about service dogs for people and children with disabilities.  (This post is also about marriage, bear with me. I know it’s a little convoluted.)  The article begins with a couple, who in 1999 adopted two babies from Russia, only to realize after a few years that their son was not developing in the same way as their adopted daughter.  After much distress and many specialists, a developmental pediatrician diagnosed the child with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.  As the child’s behavior became more problematic and as he grew bigger and stronger, the family’s concerns grew too.  The mother heard about an agency providing children with disabilities service dogs and so she brought this up to her husband, whose initial response was negative.  Over time he came around, they got a service dog, the boy bonded with it, the family was able to sleep through the night without disruption from their son; it’s a wonderful story full of hope for those with disabilities and their families.

As I read the article I had the following thought process:  We need to get a service dog for Emma!  (Forget that she is terrified of dogs.)  If we got a service dog for Emma, she would get over her fear of dogs, which would lead to her finding this particular dog calming, (forget that she’s not an out-of-control child to begin with) and the dog would help her sleep longer on the weekends.  (Forget that we live in New York City and the dog would need to be taken out first thing in the morning.)  Because he would help her sleep past 6:00AM on the weekends, we would also be able to and wouldn’t that be lovely?  (See above parentheses.)  I will not bore you with the details of my continued thinking, anyone with even a passing familiarity with the – If You Gave A Mouse A Cookie – series will know how convoluted the mind can get, if one encourages it.  Suffice it to say, I went from service dog for Emma, to thinking about our adored cat, Merlin, whom Emma ignores, to a meditation on how fortunate I am to have such a sensible and loving husband (who would be completely against this whole idea and he would be right).

Which brings me back to marriage.  I am in no way an authority on marriage, what I can say about it, is to state the obvious – It’s helpful to marry someone you really admire and like.  Adoration is helpful too.  Richard and I joke that it took us about ten years to muscle our way into a good, strong marriage, but thankfully we both kept showing up.  This is where a healthy dose of determination and tenacity can work in ones favor.  Neither of us are particularly good at giving up, in fact, we both tend to stick with something long after we probably should have let it go.  But in our marriage sticking with it has proven advantageous.  It doesn’t hurt that I adore, like, love AND admire the man, even when he’s grumpy.  Even when he doesn’t agree with me.  Even when he shoots down my wonderfully creative ideas – such as getting Emma a service dog – (an idea I haven’t actually verbalized, but know he would not want to discuss) I still love him.  I know somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind that even if he’s not right, he has a point.  A point, that with time, I might be able to come around to, at least, hearing.

It helps that I married an almost perfect man of course.  I know.  I’m very, very lucky.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:   Emma’s Hope Book

This morning Emma wore her new shoes to school

2 responses to “Service Dogs and Marriage

  1. We so very nearly got a dog for the kids (and me ) on the weekend. He was the most beautiful big labroador cross. Liam is terreified of dogs and pushes them away. His fear is getting worse. We think a dog will help become familiar with them . He really loved leading this dog around. It was very calm and even tolerated Liam pushing him on the rump to move him. Not at all jumpyy or barky ( which would really scare Liam) but very strong. But it was from the lost dogs home and already two people had put him on hold to look at him.
    We would have taken him there and then. We had to ring the next day if he wasnt sold and put our name down but someone rang 5 minutes before us and put him on hold . We waited all day then this person coame and checked the dog out and bought him. I am still going with the dog idea if we can find the right one. We thought of a service dog as you can bring it everywhere with you but they are around $30,000 Aus dollars here so well out of our price range.

  2. The woman who started the service dog program in the New York Times article, got a dog for herself (not a service dog) and then trained him. If we did not live in the city, in other words, if it was easier to keep a dog, we wouldn’t hesitate in getting one. Evidently there are places and people who can help owners train them to accommodate people and children with disabilities. Let me know if you do find one. Would love to hear how Liam does with it, when and if you do.

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