Christmas Came Early: Introducing Someone Very Special…

The tentative whispers and the cautious what ifs — the quiet perhapses and the hesitant maybes — can change your life. 

I know they’ve changed mine.

Again and again, the what ifs and maybes changed mine.

Like, maybe I love him. And, what if I marry him? And, perhaps I should follow my heart.

Changed my life. 

They were toes in the water and the slow first steps, those perhapses of wondering which were born out of longing and transformed into hope. 

Hope for a future.

Hope for a family, because the what ifs of marriage turned into the perhapses of having a baby… and then two more perhapses and a couple of maybes after that, and, whew, five kids is a lot of kids, you know? Like any number of kids is a lot of kids. Any number of kids is a LOT of kids because kids are made out of human like the rest of us and, well, any number of humans is a LOT of humans because we’re all wild and weird and wonderful which is a LOT to take all at once.

Over time in our family, we’ve wound up and down that ladder of perhaps and maybe. A whole lifetime of ups and downs, and downs and ups, and a few more downs, and not all of them pretty. 

What if we never should’ve done this?

What if it was all a mistake?

What if I’m lost forever? What if I can never find myself again?

Maybe they’d be better off without me.

Perhaps I can’t fix this.

I’d be lying if I told you I’ve never wondered whether my kids and my partner got the worst end of the deal when they landed me as a mom and a wife. I’ve wondered that a thousand thousand times. And I’ve wondered it most of all for Ian, my kid with special needs who’s strong and kind and suffers all the time because the world is an anxious place and he’s unsure where to find safety and solace. 

Maybe if I was a better mother.

Maybe if I was a better comforter.

Maybe if I wasn’t so totally batshit crazy.

It doesn’t seem to matter that I know my son’s early years, without us there yet, were full of uncertainty and neglect.

Maybe if I’d gotten there sooner…

Maybe if I was more patient…

Maybe if I’d advocated better or got to the specialists faster…

But it turns out that one of the biggest challenges of my life this far is the act of forgiving myself for everything I cannot be and all the things I cannot fix and to embrace myself for being one of those wild, weird, wonderful humans, after all… and then choosing, somehow, to dip my toes into the hopeful side of perhaps again. Choosing, somehow, to believe in the good what ifs  and the magical maybes

We sat in the counseling office a few months ago with our son. We talked again about the panic attacks and the scariness of the night. We talked about the fight or flight of anxiety. We talked about watching our kid hurting. And we talked about hope and help, and the counselor had a what if.

What if… a service dog? What if… a warm companion? What if… affection, no strings attached? What if… she’s trained to help? What if… she can do for him something special? Something extraordinary? 

I said no. It’s too complicated. It’s Another Thing in our Busy Lives. It’s unmanageable and unrealistic. My husband won’t go for another dog – no way, no how. 

But my son’s whole face lit up, and his body relaxed, and my heart whispered maybe.

Zoey5And so I’d like to introduce you to our new Zoey… a maybe born out of longing, transformed into hope, and here in the flesh and the fur.

Christmas came early in our house, no question.

Christmas came early, and Love is made real. 

Again and again, Love is made real. In the form of a Baby. In the whisper of maybe. It’s just, this time, she came with floppy ears and a tail.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas… or a Happy Hannukah… or a Wonderful Kwanza… or whatever says Love and Light to you this season… and sending Joy and Hope because I have extra right now,





P.S. Here are some pictures of a Dog and Her Boy.


Pardon me while I use this entire box of tissues. 

And P.P.S., for those of you wondering who we went through to make this happen, we’re incredibly thrilled and grateful to be working with Aliesha Shepherd at Sit Spot Click Dog Training. Aliesha found Zoey for us and is training her and… the biggest challenge… training US. 

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26 responses to “Christmas Came Early: Introducing Someone Very Special…”

  1. Oh my! Tissues being used up here, too. I am so glad about your new bundle of love and I am also glad that you share your self-doubts with us in so much detail. You remind me that I am not alone, that I am not the only person who doesn’t find motherhood so much fun and so easy. I hope you have a wonderful year. Keep writing! xo

  2. Oh you’ve invited an angel to walk alongside your son. 🙂 Although our dog has never been certified or trained for therapeutic purposes I am more than convinced he is send by the Lord and helping to heal my soul. Dogs are such amazing creatures. So incredibly happy for Ian and your whole family. What a wonderful new journey.

  3. A dog needed a boy and a boy needed a dog…perfect match. It’s truly beautiful to see how a dog can care for someone with special needs. Blessings on your wonderfully crazy home!

  4. I think this is the perfect line “It’s just, this time, she came with floppy ears and a tail.” Which is actually how I feel about my furbaby. Congratulations!

  5. Oh congratulations! Please keep us apprised of the details–I’ve been thinking about a service dog for my son for years, just what if, you know? But how does it work–is she already trained and certified before you get her? Do you have to register her with each place she will go, like schools, libraries, etc? Or is it that just having a vest is enough? I can’t wait to hear how this all works out for your family–I think it is just a wonderful idea for someone with anxiety and social limitations!! Merry Christmas!

    • Hi, Jenn. Thanks for your questions. I was afraid of the details for a LONG TIME, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much freedom there is for obtaining a service dog. If you have a medical diagnosis (for my kid it’s primarily anxiety disorder and panic attacks), you’re allowed by federal law to have a service dog, AND you can obtain and train the dog however you wish.

      We looked into several wonderful service dog organizations which would’ve meant the dog was FREE (an AMAZING thing!), but the wait is long and they can’t meet every request for a service animal… so the wait paired with the uncertainty made us give that option up when we realized we could go another route. Enter our friend Aliesha who’s a dog trainer! I spoke with Aliesha and asked her if she could help a) source a dog with the right temperament/personality and b) train the dog for/with us. She agreed to do both (a relief, since I don’t know how to do either!), and she started by talking with breeders and other trainers to look for a dog. She ended up finding Zoey through Craigslist, though; Zoey’s previous owner is getting ready to deploy overseas with the Army and he wanted her to have a new home. Zoey was the age and temperament Aliesha was hoping to find. So we bought Zoey from her previous owner, and we’re paying Aliesha to do the training.

      Here’s more information on what, exactly, the rules are for having/using a service dog:

      You don’t have to register a service dog with anyone. You don’t even have to have a vest, although I certainly think that’s helpful and less confusing for everyone. You do have to be willing to disclose when asked a) whether the dog is a service dog for someone with a disability and b) what task(s) the dog is trained to perform, but you never have to answer questions about the person’s disability.

      I hope this helps!

      • Thanks Beth! That’s pretty amazing. My son has Asperger’s Syndrome and he’s now in college at University of Alabama, living on campus and doing great. But he also struggles with anxiety and has difficulty making friends. He likes to be solo and it is ok with him so far, but he loooooooooooves dogs and they make him so happy and calm, so I’ve been thinking about beginning the process. They also can really be social bridges for people–I know someone whose daughter is in college and one boy has a service dog–everyone meets up with the guy in the quad when its time to take the vest off and play, so of course I imagine that for my son. Right now he’s not sure he can keep another living thing alive on his own, but that’s just the anxiety talking because he is awesome at keeping a schedule. Anyway, congrats to you and your son, and I hope it goes well and helps him!

  6. That second picture really says it all, doesn’t it?
    When we moved here, part of the reason we bought a trailer instead of renting an apartment was so we could have a dog. My husband was reluctant–too much extra money, too much extra work…guess who spoils her rotten.

    Hi Zoey. What a pretty doggie. Grr. Bark. Woof. Good girl.

  7. I am so honored and humbled to have been asked to accompany you all on this wonderful new journey. Also so grateful that my hunch turned out so well. She is as sweet as honey, and already loves that boy.

  8. Dogs really ARE “love made real.” It is hard for our family that my husband’s allergies preclude furry pets. (And yes, he’s tried everything, including SIX YEARS of weekly shots.) My kids say to every single person they see walking a dog, “I like your dog–may I pet it?” I am so happy for you and your boy!

  9. Maybe 2 boxes of tissues needed! The perfect gift for a dog, a boy!! 😉 sending love and prayers for you and your family. Hoping Aliesha isn’t too hard of a trainer on you!

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