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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Christensen

puppy love

Yes, it's true, we are in love! A little over a week ago we brought home our sweet pup, Wink;) To say that he is cute is an understatement, he’s so darn adorable and looks like a little stuffed animal and sometimes I can’t believe he is real. I was hesitant to dive back into the amazing and sometimes heartbreaking world of fur babies but as soon as he came home, I knew it was meant to be! Wink was timid when we first met him and again for about the first 3 days he was with us and then it’s like he realized “hey, I think I live here now and it’s pretty fun” and he settled in, became super playful (puppy chewing & biting included), enjoys running laps around our house, swimming in his puppy pool and he sleeps like a baby in between. He can make it over 7 hours at night before he lets us know that he has to go out, so for me that’s more than a full night's sleep. We are still working on potty training, and our current situation is one step forward, 2 steps back but I think us humans are part of the issue and we have to take him out on a more regular schedule. It’s been 9 ½ years since we had a puppy in the house and I feel it’s like having a newborn and enough time has passed so that I have forgotten just about everything, just like with the boys.

It all sounds like we’ve got this, right? For the most part we do but there are challenges. Even though Wink can make it 7 hours at night, that doesn’t mean we don’t wake up when he moves around his crate or that his accidents don't come at very inconvenient times, like when I’m helping Luke eat or making dinner or finally put my feet up for a few minutes. It’s exhausting at times, but we knew it would be and quite honestly we are used to being tired most of the time. The unique challenge we face is the relationship between Luke & Wink. Let’s rewind for a moment to reflect on Luke & Sonny’s (our Golden who passed in May) relationship. Sonny was the first thing Luke asked for each morning, after school, after he was away from him for any length of time, you get my point. We had Sonny since he was a puppy, so he knew Luke well. Luke was 9 when we brought Sonny home. They grew up together and Sonny learned that while Luke’s behavior is quite different from Everett’s, Glenn's or my own, it is quite predictable so he knew when Luke was getting too touchy, or his gentle hands were turning into pulling on his ears. Sonny knew how to navigate around Luke just perfectly, giving Luke the attention he craved but pulling away and physically moving out of Luke’s way when the play escalated. We have always been vigilant about making sure Luke does not hurt (even out of love) our dogs and vice versa. Luke’s play escalates and his intentions were never to hurt Sonny but as he would get excited to play tug of war or throw a ball, that excitement often led to play that went on for too long or hands that got a little too rough. Luke does not understand personal space or boundaries, trust me! Sonny and Luke had a beautiful, unique relationship that is difficult to put in words. Luke was a different person at 9 when we got Sonny. Having Wink as a puppy now that Luke is almost 19 has a new set of challenges. We are committed to putting in the time and resources to train both Wink & Luke so they can have an amazing relationship as well but Glenn and I need to be constant referees when they are together. Did I mention we are mentally exhausted???

I tried Googling “training a child with special needs and a puppy” or “ positive behavior training for a child with special needs and their dog” “trainers that work with children and puppies” and I read tons about why dogs are so good for people with disabilities, puppy training and even how to train a dog with special needs but I cannot find anything about training both parties at the same time. I’m thinking that we may need to bring in a behavior analyst for Luke along with a puppy trainer that uses positive reinforcement and have Luke/Wink training sessions.

Any ideas out there? I do believe that Wink will become wiser as he grows and like Sonny, will navigate Luke and his unique way of showing his love. It is very important to us that Luke and Wink have a lot of time together each day with one of us supervising their play so that they bond and so that Wink gets to know his brother and figure him out. Right now, as a puppy, he feeds into Luke’s energy and ramps up right with him! Yes, it is overwhelming at times so I remind myself, deep breaths, one hour at a time and thank goodness Glenn is my willing and able partner in crime. I sometimes feel that we are exploring uncharted territory and while we will take into consideration any advice from the experts, Luke is literally unique even in the world of special needs and we often have to use what we know about behavior training and tweak it to fit in our lives. Some of it is unconventional and may not make sense to others but it works for our family.

I love sharing information, collaborating with other parents and making connections, so whether it’s our family tips when traveling, how to keep your child busy over the summer, how to communicate with a school team that doesn’t understand your child’s diagnosis or training your child with special needs right alongside your puppy, I am happy to share. Give me a minute with the puppy one though, we are still figuring that one out! I do not have all the answers. And some days I’m pretty sure that I don’t have any of them, but sharing information is key and I want parents to know that they are not alone! There are others of us out there who find ourselves in these crazy situations that most just don’t understand. They may be sympathetic or lend an ear which is amazing but connecting with people who can relate, even if it’s just a little bit is priceless!

I have a busy Monday to conquer…and enjoy (PMA) but I will leave you with a couple more photos of our precious moments from the past week and a half with sweet Wink.

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