He runs to make his mind still, to organize himself and to get rid of the noise from this loud, confusing world. The more he's moved, the more he's introduced patterns and rhythm into his routine. Laps around the house are a daily ritual. He's made it more complex as he's developed, but the basics are the same. There is a pattern of movement -- specific foot patterns based on whatever song or chant he chooses to accompany the run, and he can not be stopped until he is ready to be.

This is James, and this is our story.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Searching for a Friend

I'm searching for a friend. Maybe you've seen her?

I haven't met her yet, but I have an idea what she looks like. James reminds me incessantly of my mission. She is 2. She is not too big or too small - she is just the right size. She is black (well, it is ok if she is mostly black.)

I know what she will do. It's all very clear. She will run around a lot and do silly things. She will play with James and Johnny in the yard. Mostly she will be with James. She will sleep with him and comfort him when he wakes up anxious in the middle of the night. She will be there when he needs a friend to talk to or sit quietly with.

And she will completely ignore both cats.

I definitely know what she WON'T do. She absolutely will not eat Fluffy, Johnny's almost real stuffed kitty. She won't eat any of Fluffy's friends either. And of course she won't bark, jump, nip or whine too much. She won't mind sharing James and Johnny with a houseful of friends jumping and screaming and laughing and playing, and she won't get nervous when kids flap or make sudden noises or run back and forth across the room like squirrels.

I know. Good luck, right???

But here's the thing. Years ago, we noticed that James' mind stopped racing and his anxiety was visibly decreased when he was around dogs. Big dogs. Labs. He immediately went from completely out of sorts to calm and relaxed just by petting a dog. But with two older cats in the house, a  less than enthusiastic husband and a skittish younger brother, getting a dog for James wasn't a viable option. I tried to push it for a while, and then gave up.

James didn't however. His interest in dogs grew over the years. He started asking to drive by the off leash park on the way to school, and he kept a mental inventory of what kinds of dogs played there and when. James delighted in playing with friends' dogs. He would empty a huge basket of tennis balls all over the back yard for one lucky lab each time we went over to their house, giggling and flapping as Buddy would chase each one. He would go across the street just to pet Lola, and run back and forth in front of our neighbor's yard so their German Shepherd could run along side.

And then this past July we went to visit my sister and nephews in California. That story in pictures to come soon (I promise) but for now I need to focus on the task at hand. Because for three magical weeks, this is what I watched:

Gypsy. James' new best friend.

Johnny isn't skittish any more!

We've been back for more than a month and now both boys are constantly begging for a dog. James is stopping dog owners with a barrage of questions about age, breed, silliness level and bark frequency. All data is compared to Gypsy, his new best friend benchmark. The deer-in-the-headlight look I see in each of those unsuspecting people turns into amusement and understanding when I explain that James very much wants a dog. James rushes to explain EXACTLY what his dog will be like and that look becomes one of thoughtful mentor as each provides details, encouragement and (thankfully) responsible advice.

Having a dog is going to be a big adjustment for our family, and I know it is going to take a lot of time and care to find her, but I am lucky to have friends with a lot more experience and insight than I do who immediately stepped up and are helping me search. With their help, and with yours (if you know the dog described above who is waiting for an adoring new best friend) we'll find her.

And this new friendship is going to be totally worth it.


Heather said...

Aww. I love this. James is the perfect best friend for a Lab, he was so patient and attentive to ours when you visited, not to mention hands on with filling water bowls, dinner time feeding, snacks and tons of snuggling. Gypsy misses him VERY much too. When you do find her she will be one of the luckiest dogs ever! Fingers are crossed you find each other soon.

knitredsox said...

Wishing James, and your family, much success in finding your pup. We had the dog before the boy. In fact, Rooney jumped up on the couch and hugged me (with his furry paws)in my despair the day we got the Autism diagnosis. They are best friends and have an amazing bond. Rooney brings out so much happiness, love and calm in Liam. Go for it! Yes, it is work and money (vet bills), but what your family will get back is worth so much more.