Happy Belated Birthday!
I don’t think it was a coincidence that you were born during autism awareness month. If there was ever a blue-eyed boy with autism who desperately needed a friend to help him learn the ropes of the world, it was Caden. Before we met you, leaving the house was hard—like really, really hard. Open spaces were overwhelming for Caden, and he usually resorted to flight in places such as parking lots or fields. I lost count of the number of close calls that we had in parking lots. When we did go out, we tried to keep him in his stroller at cheerleading competitions for his sister because the crowd sizes were so overwhelming for him. The mall? Well, that certainly wasn’t even a consideration. Friends were nonexistent and transitions were a nightmare. We won’t even mention sleep because it just wasn’t a thing in our household.
Then you came into our lives. You wiggled and wagged and exuded so much energy that morning we first met you that I had a moment (and I’m embarrassed to say this now) where I wondered how in the world you were going to possibly offer any kind of calm or stability to our boy. Our first night together at the hotel, though, you went into the bathroom to watch his bath and never hesitated to jump on his bed when he laid down. And from the moment we drove home after 4 Paws graduation (and he threw up all over you---sorry about that) you two have been together.
You have so kindly accepted all of our cats (even the ones who like to bathe you) and every dog we have brought into the house no matter how ill-mannered or undignified they act (seriously the puppy will one day mature…I think). When your boy is doing well, you have provided much needed love for Caden’s sister and you have helped our youngest work his way through adoption trauma. You haven’t hesitated to try to help a stranger in need in the doctor’s office, the school, or where ever you are and are needed. And sometimes late at night before you retire to Caden’s room, you spend some time and kisses making sure that we are okay too.
You’ve been a pillow, an Ipad holder, a stuffed toy fetcher, a blanket, and a best friend. You’ve helped Caden explore the world with you safely by his side, and when he’s wandered (that toy store incident was totally my fault because I misread your “get a clue lady, the kid is leaving” message for a “hey I’m a dog and gotta go potty message”..sorry about that) you have safely located him no matter the weather, the location, or the circumstances.
Without a question you know everything you were trained to do and you do all of your tasks well. I’m grateful for your ability to disrupt behaviors, ease transitions, provide sensory input, tether, and track. And if that’s all you ever did, I would forever be thankful for you. But you are so, so, so much more than that to Caden. You are his best friend—you are the one who is with him in the middle of the night and he has a bad dream or first thing in the morning when he wakes up and is still disoriented from sleep. You’ve walked into hospitals and educational settings when we couldn’t go with him. You have loved him unconditionally and for that I will be eternally grateful for you.
To be honest, I don’t much like thinking about your birthday because it means you are getting a year older. But no matter how painful our final parting will be someday, I will never regret our decision to bring you into Caden’s life.
If I could give you one thing on your birthday it would be for you to know that we love you to the extent and depth that you love our boy. And that’s pretty much all the way to the moon and back. Thank you for helping us write Caden’s tale.