Believe it or not, the one month follow up paperwork came in the mail today. Yep, we’ve been home from 4 Paws For Ability with Elf a little over a month now. It has been an interesting and eye opening month.
Although Caden was adamantly opposed to the idea of a service dog, he really seems to love Elf (as long as we don’t use the “service dog” phrase). If we need to correct Elf for any reason, Caden readily jumps to his defense as to why he shouldn’t be in trouble. If we need to leave Elf at home, Caden is the first to question why Elf isn’t going with us. And although Elf adores everyone in the family, he seems to know that Caden is his first priority. The first few days we were home, it felt like he was more our dog than Caden’s and I have to admit I was a little worried. Over time though he has come to recognize that while he takes his orders from us, his devotion truly is to his boy. He quickly comes running when he hears something that signals Caden is sad, scared, melting down, or even hurt. He doesn’t always know yet what the appropriate reaction is but he is starting to realize that nuzzle, kisses, or lap always seem to be a good choice when in doubt. Interestingly he is also seems to be able to recognize when Caden is getting sick; I suppose something doesn’t quite smell right. Although unexpected, it is a great addition in our arsenal of fighting the immune deficiency battle. Having established his loyalty to Caden, I must say that when he and the family come to visit Ryley in the hospital during her infusions, he is genuinely worried and doesn’t like Ryley in the hospital bed or all of the medical smells around her. It’s great that we don’t have to limit Ry and Elf’s time together to ensure that he and Caden bond—that was most definitely a worry that we had and a reality that we know other families have to live.
I’ve developed an amazing respect for dogs. I even think it’s possible that I might have been more of a dog person to start with, if I had grown up around dogs who listen AND actually follow commands (in case you are wondering, I am still pretty fascinated with Elf’s “potty” command). Okay, in defense of Maizy and Nikki, they have actually learned some manners and even our neighbor who NEVER talks to us, admitted that they are better behaved these days—I think that means they only bark 90% of the time they are outside, instead of 99% but it is progress. In the interest of full disclosure I should probably tell you though that the universe has been quick to reprimand such thinking on my part---we now have three stray kittens (guess they aren’t so stray now, are they?) to add to the five cats we already have.
Maybe one of our biggest accomplishments upon arriving home is again working on Caden sleeping in his own bed. We frequently talk about how he isn’t alone in his bedroom because his buddy Elf is with him. He’s a smart kid though and recently I came upstairs from the laundry room to find Elf and Caden playing outside in the backyard (thank goodness it is fenced). I reminded Caden that he mustn’t go outside by himself and you got it---his response was but mommy I’m not outside by myself, Elf came with me. And once again the 5 year wins the battle of logic over mommy. When it comes down to it, I think he’s right….he really isn’t ever alone between his dad, sister, me, and Elf. It really is becoming a tale of an amazing dog and his boy.