Thursday, July 21, 2011

ELF


Today has been an amazing day. We received an email titled Dear Caden; it was what 4 Paws 4 Ability calls a “match letter.” In that letter were the name and a picture of our service dog. ELF—such a short name, but what an impact it has had today. Even Caden is excited that the doggy in the picture is going to be his. 

I think we’ve been climbing a mountain since July 2009. It was both exciting and terrifying to receive that packet in the mail from 4 Paws letting us know that we had been approved for an autism service dog and that we could officially begin fundraising. $13,000 dollars is a lot of money, but that same month we had moved to another state where we didn’t know anyone and I honestly didn’t know how we were going to raise that money. I also didn’t know how we would share our story because I wanted to protect the kids and honestly our hearts from disappointment and the negativity that is sometimes associated with anything having to do with autism. But we also knew that we had to do it; having a dog that was trained to search and rescue, tether, and engage in behavior disruption was one more opportunity to let both of our kids just be kids. It would give Caden another constant in his life that could be with him at school, at the hospital, or playing in our house/yard and it would free some of our attention to make outings easier on Ryley as well. 

So we began climbing that mountain. It wasn’t easy though and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there were a number of times that I thought to myself that we’d never raise the money and should just quit now. My husband was the new department chair and his job prevented him from being active in the day-to-day fundraising operations. I was teaching 4 or 5 online classes that  I had never taught before and during this time Ryley developed a staph infection in her eardrum that required us driving 3 hours to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital one or two times a week for months. 

However, like climbing a mountain, every time I thought the climb was over there would be another phone call for an interview or an email with a fundraiser. Thankfully I sent emails to the right organizations and found several college students who were willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. They continually found new ideas for fundraisers and I muddled my way through creating a website and Facebook group. Each new foothold would move us a little closer to the top of the mountain.

We finally reached the top and the letter came in the mail stating that we had completed our fundraising responsibilities. Climbing the mountain was tiring though and it took us awhile to realize that we were truly at the top. Honestly I don’t think we completely began to enjoy the view until today when we met ELF in that email.  It feels real and we can finally see how beautiful the view is from the mountain top.