Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Jewel for E

Early last August, P and I met with Jack, the head of the Morris Service Dog Program, to discuss the possibility of a canine companion for E.

We made it far enough in the process that E play-tested a dog that might make a good match. We even observed a series of dog training classes for existing child-dog teams in order to build a wish list of what we'd like a dog to help E with during the school day.

Then came the news of E's aneurysm. We put the plan on hold, not knowing when the surgery would happen, how long we'd need for recovery, or how E's needs would change because of it.

Months passed, and in the midst of our dealings with E, getting back to normal, and juggling life in general, I'd put the notion of a help dog so far down on my to-do list that I'd forgotten it was there.

Until Jack called last week.

"I have a dog," he said, "one I think will be a good match for E."

Her name is Jewel. She's a sweet black labrador, smaller than average, surefooted and strong. She's smart, and knows the basics. Sit. Stay. Come. Heel. Take it.

But the basics are just the beginning for a companion dog. Now, Jewel must be trained to meet E's specific needs. And she must be socialized to our golden retriever, Buffy, and our cat, Mr. Ginger, or the match will not work. In all, the process will take six months or more of weekly sessions.

Jewel and E worked together for the first time last night, E learning how to summon Jewel to heel, and Jewel learning to stand still while E uses her for support. The long-term goal is for Jewel to attend school with E next fall.

So far so good. By the end of last night's session, both were well on their way to becoming fast friends.

Edited to add: Can't help but notice the many story possibilities in this latest journey of E's. Keeping notes and pics as my muse considers the options.

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