Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Night Before Graduation: Elf Training Day 10

Today’s blog is one of mixed emotions, most of which I can’t identify at the moment. I’m thrilled that day 10 means that I will get to see my daughter tomorrow and hope that she is still excited enough about her birthday presents that I can see a little glimpse of what I missed when she turned 11 a few days ago.  She, on the other hand, was genuinely shocked that we’ll be back tomorrow already.

I’m nervous about our public access test that is scheduled for 11:30 tomorrow. I think we are ready but I had hoped to practice a few more times at the mall tonight but those plans were thwarted by the stomach virus that hit Caden hard around 2 today. Elf most definitely hasn’t been pleased about Caden’s illness. He has been trying to lick Caden’s mouth which is interesting since Dan and I have always said we could tell by Caden’s breath when he’s not feeling well. Elf has tried to take his ball to Caden several times and has gone back and forth a number of times between Caden and us whining almost as though he wants us to do something---in doggy world, he’s probably thinking really people, I’m telling you something is wrong so do something. The poor dog did manage to get vomited on in the car but Jeremy is always saying that we should practice as realistically as possible and with 2 kids with immune deficiencies, I can most definitely say that was realistic. 

I’m sad as I think about leaving the other 7 families. I know we won’t see the families, their children, or their dogs again after tomorrow. I imagine it will be something like summer camp. For several weeks the bonding is intense and when you first arrive home you write letters and stay in touch. Then the conversations taper off to once a month and then maybe around the holidays.  We’ve been through so much together the past 10 days and it has been wonderful having such an amazing and sensitive support system.  Don’t get me wrong; we aren’t sitting around playing cards together in the evening but at the same time I’ve had parents share supplies with me when Caden had an emergency potty run that I wasn’t prepared for, a parent run to Walgreens for me when I desperately needed Tylenol for Caden and neither of us could leave Caden or Elf, and I think we’ve all supported each other through our children and dogs’ up and down moments. 

I’m anxious about life after graduation tomorrow.  Assuming that we leave with Elf, life as we know it will change dramatically. We have another supply bag to remember to take out with us, another being to remember to feed, water, and allow potty time for, and a new source of attention when we are out and about. As we’ve found the last few days, people aren’t really use to seeing dogs in public and if they are surprised at a mall less than 5 miles from a training facility, then I can’t imagine they are going to be any less surprised in Wisconsin or Minnesota.  However I also think that we can make sure positive Elf attention is tied to Caden and instead of being that kid who is too old for his pacifier, he’ll be the really adorable blue eyed boy with the teddy bear dog.  

And so it is with those emotions and many more that I reflect back on today.  This morning was amazing. I tracked first and really felt like I could read Elf much more accurately and he seemed to be much more enthusiastic about the tracking process. Dan ran the second track and it was a deep woods track. I have to admit I was a little nervous about hiding in the woods; I had actually remembered to put off on Caden but we just had tennis shoes on and I worried about snakes, poison ivy, spiders, and well just plain not being found.  Elf handled it like a true champ. It is so cute because when he is confident that he is close his whole body starts wiggling.  Honestly I’m relieved that he is so happy to find his boy since we need to trust him to do his job.

The afternoon was spent with our final obedience training as well as instruction on going home. I’m not so worried about introducing Elf to our dogs or cats; they are used to being around our random rescues but I hope it won’t be overwhelming to Elf. We did get to pick out our collars that we’ll get tomorrow if we pass our test and we received our tracking leashes today.  Although Caden was too sick to help pick out the collar, I think he’ll love the black and gray camo collar I picked. Cute bragging moment: Caden gives Elf a hug and kiss every night and tells him night night love you.  Absolutely adorable

I did want to thank those of you who have been reading my blog; I can only say that it means a lot to me.  I really want to share our experience with autism as realistically as I can but some days it is hard to know if what I am writing makes sense to anyone but me.  The kind words mean so much.  I do have to break a bit of bad news though…this is kind of like a cliffhanger blog tonight.  You know our access test and potential graduation are tomorrow but regardless of outcome we will be out of internet access until Sunday evening which means you’ll have to wait a day or two but I promise I’ll write the blog tomorrow night so that it will all be fresh in my mind and will post as soon as I can on Sunday J