Some Days are Diamonds by Linda J. Porter



Thanks for asking about my
dog.  She perked up over the past couple of days but this morning she
could not get up without assistance.  I thought maybe she had just been
ill rather than dying, but now I’m not sure.  I just try to make her more
comfortable, do some contingency planning around her potential demise, and
focus on enjoying every moment that I can share with her.  I secretly hope
that if she were to die, let it be after ShayLynn, 16, returns from camp on
Saturday so she can gain some closure.
ShayLynn was three years old,
about six months after her adoption, when a litter of puppies was featured on
the local morning news one rainy day in December.  The puppies had been
left in a bag in a rural area in King County called Black Diamond.
Remarkably, a group of teen boys came by, rescued them, and brought them to the
local animal shelter.  I felt compelled to drive to the shelter that
morning, not really believing we would get one of those puppies but since I had
been planning to adopt a dog, I hoped it would be one of these.
You see, ShayLynn
had been asking in previous months about her biological parents; e.g., why they
were not there for her and why they left her.  In preparation for her July
adoption, I had been explaining that “adoption” means having a “forever family”.  She knew she had lived with me since she was
two months old, and now adoption would mean she could forever remain legally a
part of my world.  This comforted her but
she was also a bit confused.
When the boys found the puppy
littler, I thought it would be a great parallel for ShayLynn to reach out and
adopt a puppy within a few months of me adopting her, and that she might then
better understand on some core level that she had an opportunity to ease
another creature’s life.  Even though Diamond’s mommy was not there,
because of the kindness of young men—who could have made other decisions about
their fate—these puppies had a solid chance.  And so it came to be that one
little black Labrador/border collie mix who had a large white diamond on her
chest, who was found in Black Diamond, and now named Diamond—had that chance of
being loved by a little girl who now somehow understood.
But the story does not stop
there.  When I brought ShayLynn’s little brother into our home six years
later after his mommy could no longer take care of him, he required an
extraordinary amount of supervision—more than even most waddlers and toddlers—as
he continues to need to this day at the age of 11 years.  Besides
suffering from PTSD due to his traumatic early childhood history, Nathan has a
sensory processing disorder where he is highly sensitive to sensations, but he
also seeks it out to distraction.  He has this incredible “bionic” ability
to hear, see, and feel sensations more than most people can.  (Case in
point, he spoke just last week about how amazing it was to actually hear the
sound of little birds flapping their wings some distance away.  I am
highly attuned to sensations as well, but I could not hear it.)
There are many times when Nathan
becomes so overwhelmed by all of these sensory intrusions in his life, that it
can lead to behavior problems.  Not to be crass, but it was sometimes hard
to even get into the bathroom because he had to be right near me at all
times.  Sometimes I felt I could hardly breathe.  I also had to be
highly aware of whether or not he would somehow harm the dog, as is so typical
of little tykes whose greatest delight is in toys that make noises at the push
of a button.  Pulling a dog’s ears can result in a squeal or even worse, a
snap of the jaw.  This would be exciting for Nathan with his
sensory-seeking needs.
So, I knew if I went into the
bathroom, I would have to keep the door at least partly open, then use my
“mother’s other eyes” (my ears) especially since the dog bed was located in my
oversized hallway outside of the bathroom door.  One day, the door ajar
and separating us—it got eerily quiet.  I spoke to Nathan (who was about
two), asking him what he was doing.  No answer.  I spoke more and no
answer.  This could not possibly be good.  I had kiddie gates on the
doors leading from the hallway, but had not heard any open.  What was
going on?
I rushed to open the door and
there I saw what has become one of my greatest memories:  My little boy,
the epitome of relaxation, was lying in a fetal position in the dog’s bed next
to the dog.  Every inch of his hair was saturated and swept into all sorts
of comical swirls and curls.  And there was our family dog, licking my
normally busy boy with a most loving expression on her face.  It was
impossible to be disturbed by what would typically be a rather disgusting
scene.  A bath could come later.  Right now, Nathan enjoyed it so
much that this was the one thing that he remained still for.  Why impede
that?!
And thus began the bond that he
and his “mother dog” share to this day.  In a special way, Diamond
transcended what I had been trying to accomplish in the months since Nathan had
arrived in my home—helping him learn how trust enough to be nurtured and to
accept love.  Nathan is sad about the prospect of losing his beloved
Diamond.  When he thinks about it, huge tears form in his eyes and the
occasional tear trickles down his face.  He said he misses her already.
For now, he leans into me for comfort and empathy, a huge step for him.
Someday, though, he will understand even more, the importance of her
journey in his healing.”
Afterthought, 8/28/13:  I
continued to observe Diamond until Saturday, 8.24.13, the date my daughter
would return after two weeks of overnight camp.
Since Saturday, it is as though our beloved dog is different!  She is up and around, moving easily, doing
her “sassy bark” when she is not in the same room with us at night (her
long-term, unpredictable incontinence means she must be on a washable floor),
and is eating and drinking more.  She
wags her tail and initiates play.  Could
it be she was grieving the loss of her “sister”, my daughter?  Hmmm….
We are guardedly joyous that this means she will remain with us for
longer still.


2017

News

Updated on Jul/07/2015

  • Create a vision for the future. Set goals. Identify helpful people and needed supports.
    Let Your Person Centered Planning Guide help you plan and prepare for each stage of life.

  • Informing Families is a partnership for better communication, provided by the Washington State Developmental Disabilities Council in collaboration with the Washington State Developmental Disabilities Administration and other partners throughout the state.