Monday, March 9, 2009

the weekend

alright, here goes my best attempt at describing all the events of the weekend. .... by the time we arrived, it was time to get the dogs settled and clean up for dinner with jack's family. it was so fun! they are so nice to have let so many of us invade their house! we had such a good time talking and eating and it was very nice to get to meet the whole family!

saturday afternoon we went to alex's house with quite a few spectators and JAKE, LIA, and CAMDEN. LIA was up first, and she quickly went to investigate alex in his chair. she sniffed and licked and didn't mind when his excited little legs caught her with a few kicks, in fact she didn't seem to notice. she checked out the house some but stopped sniffing around pretty quickly. she then went to see mom and dad and showed quite a bit of interest in mom. next came JAKE, who was a lot less into meeting everyone, but was very observant. he laid alertly near heidi and watched alex's movements, laugh, and vocalizations with a lot of interest. lastly came CAMDEN, who much like LIA showed a lot of interest in alex giggling in his chair. he alternated between sniffing (for the hidden cat) and nosing alex's cheek.

next we decided to put alex on the floor and introduce the dogs again. this changed the scenario quite a bit because alex is very happy, wiggly, and mobile on the floor! LIA was once again very interested, but much more off-put this time by the feet. she again sought out some attention from mom, then reassurance from heidi that the kicking was okay. she seemed to accept alex's new movement readily, and again showed him short spurts of loving attention. CAMDEN took a few kicks to the nose before deciding to stay closer to alex's head, but he made this adjustment fairly readily and mostly on his own. he was very content to lay a few feet away from alex and watch him, eventually relaxing and falling asleep. when alex would wake him by petting his paw, he did not move away, he showed trust in his upper body movements very quickly. alex even missed a paw at one point and shoved a whole fist very enthusiastically in CAMDEN'S mouth but he just wrinkled up his nose and moved his head away to remove it. CAMDEN settled down so nicely as we got to talking that he spent the most time with alex, so it is fair to assume that LIA also could have made similar adjustments with a prolonged visit. on JAKE'S second try he showed alex a lot of affection, but is simply not gentle enough for alex. JAKE is the bull in the china shop, but a smart bull!

although there was no "instant" bond as we had with amanda, grace, and jack, this was certainly an amazing visit. several factors, most importantly being that these bumps were done in a foreign environment to the dogs, made this "bump" visit exceed our expectations. when our visits take place at the prison and the visitors are the only variable for the dogs, it is much different than expecting the dogs to take in a whole new place, new people, and bond all at the same time. alex's movement are also different than what the dogs are used to, but this shows the difference between the dogs that we choose to use in special education classrooms and those we do not. some dogs are simply more in-tuned, more willing and able, to observe, accept, and go on to bond with people who do not act the way they have learned to expect. LIA and CAMDEN showed these abilities beautifully, and in a completely foreign environment, nonetheless.

so, in summary, we expect matching alex with a dog to work much as the process was for matching SOLOMON with erin. we were able to narrow down the potentials by evaluating their training level, and then with their disposition and initial reaction to alex and his family. we will continue to push the dogs to new training levels, as well as take them for a few more interactions with the family. as the dogs begin to understand and trust alex more, they will form the strong bond we are lookin for and soon a clear pair will emerge...just as it did with erin and SOLOMON. we are so excited not only for the way that the dogs were with alex, but also for the way that the family-and alex in particular-reacted to the dogs. the way his face lit up, he scooted and reached to get to the dogs, and his laughter never ceased while he touched the fur, just proves to all of us what a difference one of them are going to make for him very very soon!!!!

thank you again to everyone for having us and our 3 crazy dogs for the weekend. i can't wait to see you all again soon!

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