Everyone loves puppies, right?
Not my daughter, Faith. At least not yet…
My husband and I have both wanted a dog for several years. We’ve always had dogs as children and young adults. What’s not to love about dogs?! There are countless reasons we wanted a furry family member, but I’ll just share a few…
Loyalty, Love, Fun, and Being More Active
Let me give you the back story about why Faith is not a fan of Primadonna.
It all started about seven years ago. I found myself alone with the kids and going through a divorce. Honestly, going from my daddy to a husband and never having been on my own, the once always-taken-care-of little girl inside of me was afraid. My son was thirteen and Faith was only nine. I wanted to feel safe at home alone with them. I wanted protection for the house since the ‘man of the house’ was now an unpredictable teenager.
So, my brilliant idea was to get a dog!
Years prior we had rescued and adopted a wonderful pointer-whippet mix when the kids were very small. Sally had been abused and neglected for years, so she was very timid. Faith was only about two and was fast friends with the calm, sweet and quiet canine. Faith cuddled and played with Sally all the time. The kids grew up with Sally, for the next four years, until sadly her medical issues sent her over the Rainbow bridge.
I didn’t expect any problems. After all, Faith was happy and loved a dog in the past.
But this time was very different.
My cousins raise and train dogs and horses, so I went to him to adopt a new pup. In hindsight, the young and active chocolate lab was too large and had an overabundance of energy that Faith had to handle. Rocky hadn’t quite been trained yet and at only two years old he already towered over my little girl. He jumped and barked constantly, as young dogs do prior to training. I felt so bad for my daughter. She was terrified in her own home. I felt like a failure as a mom. In poorly handling my own insecurities about living alone, I made a terrible mistake that negatively affected my daughter.
In the end, I had no choice other than to return Rocky to my cousin. I just couldn’t have my daughter crying and screaming every day.
Fast-forward seven years later, we decided to adopt a black-lab mix from the local shelter. My thinking was since she was a puppy and so small it would be easier for Faith to accept her new furry sister. I’m aware that puppies, in general, are high-energy and barky, but Primadonna was so sweet and calm and honestly, I couldn’t resist.
My husband and I were able to adjust Miss Prim to her new home alone since Faith was at her dad’s the weekend of the adoption. She was and still is, adorable, sweet, and super smart. I gave Miss Prim some things of Faith’s so she could get to know her scent. Meanwhile, I sent pictures of Primadonna to my son, so he could show them to Faith and ‘talk her up’ while they were at their dad’s.
At the first meeting, Miss Prim was very well-behaved. She sat and was quiet just looking up at Faith with the adorable puppy head tilt. I wish I could say the same for my daughter…
Faith’s anxiety kicked in and immediately the yelling, grunting, and dramatic arm on her forehead ensued.
For those of you who haven’t followed my blog in the past, Faith is a smart and sweet sixteen-year-old girl with Down Syndrome. She is non-verbal and no one knows her better than I do. I of course understand that she has a fear of dogs, but part of my job as her mother is to help her overcome her fears. I teach her that the road is dangerous, not to touch the stove, and she knows not to go out to the pool without an adult. But in the case of a well-behaved puppy, she needs to understand that there is no real danger.
As well as I know her, and for the most part, I have always known what she wanted or has been thinking for the past sixteen years. But there are times like now, all I can do is pray for help.
I got to thinking, her being ‘afraid’ of dogs may just be a hard habit to break.
For the past month, I’ve been running myself ragged trying to make sure Faith feels safe, but also creatively coming up with ways to be fair to Primadonna. (I don’t want to have her in the crate all day.)
Adhering to Faith’s routine is very important, as with most children. For children who have Down Syndrome, it’s especially necessary to stick to their routine. Schedules and routines have always been necessary for Faith, as it provides her with a sense of security. Especially now that her home space has, in her mind I’m sure, been violated by an unwanted furry intruder. So, my priority is Faith. I make sure she still goes about her business as usual.
The daily routine goes something like this…
Faith wakes up and goes right into the bathroom. Even at sixteen years old, we are still potty training so this has proved to help her immensely. I go in with her, initially, to lay her school clothes on the sink counter. She then goes potty and gets dressed all on her own. While she’s closed in the bathroom I bring Miss Prim out to do her ‘business’. By the time we’re done outside Faith gets escorted carefully into the bonus room. I keep the glass, french doors closed so I can see her and she can me with Prim. That way she can stick to her morning ritual of cereal, drink, and Chromebook.
That gives her the opportunity to watch me play with and function in our home with Miss Prim while feeling ‘safe’ behind closed doors. I’ll often bring Prim over to the french doors so Faith can wave to her. If my husband hasn’t left for work yet, he takes Primadonna into the bedroom so I get faith out of the bonus room and out the door to get the school bus. If he’s already gone, I crate Prim so Faith can walk through the house without upset.
It makes for a very stressful morning… for me.
Now, here’s the kicker. We’ve caught her a few times with Primadonna when she didn’t see us looking. She didn’t yell, cry, or fuss. Then, as soon as she spots us peeking around the corner, drama ensues with the arm going up on her forehead and her “eh eh eh eh” distress sound begins.
Then, I thought, maybe it was for attention. After all, a new puppy is a lot like a baby, and Faith has always been the ‘baby’ of the family getting all of our attention.
Considering Faith seems ‘okay’ with Primadonna when she thinks we’re not looking, and the fact that it may be for attention, I am now trying not to react to Faith’s theatrics (as much). I have also enlisted the help of a co-worker, a special needs behavior specialist, from the school where I teach. She actually is coming over today to meet Faith and watch the show. Wish us luck!
So, this is just another story of the crazy, unpredictable life of raising a child with Down Syndrome. There are struggles and stress at times, but always joy. And as always, it’s my mission to learn more about Faith and her specific special needs in order to help her learn, overcome her fears and live a happy, successful, and full life.
This story does not have a happy ending. There is no solution. And, unfortunately, no happy, calm first hug between a girl and her pup.
At least not yet.
Keep in Touch
Do you have pets? How does your child with special needs get along with your pets? What obstacles do you face? What has worked for you? Feel free to reach out by commenting below or by going to http://www.ginapanzinolyman.com. I’d love to hear what you have tried and what works for you and your child. I share my thoughts and feelings with you, so that you may find comfort in knowing that life is hard at times, but you are not alone. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Take care of you! Stay well!