Contrast

6 years ago yesterday was the worst day of my life.  The day my precious, first-born son was diagnosed with Autism.  Yesterday……was one of the best.  The day he first met his very own service dog.  Wow!  What a contrast!

6 years ago and a few months prior…..all had been perfect.  Cannon had walked early, talked early, and was incredibly smart.  But in a 2 month free fall, he lost the ability to speak, make eye contact, and seemed to do nothing but scream 24-7.  Our lives were turned completely upside down.  We had lost the boy we knew and were left with a shell of his former self.  It was devastating.

Today…..6 years after that awful, life changing day….he began a new chapter of his little life.  And hopefully, one that will lead to a much better, more independent, happier life.  One where he is even more supported and love.  Even more confident and capable.  And even more protected and safe.  We are so excited to see how this changes Cannon’s life for the better.

Our class is being held at a local church.  4 Paws for Ability is building a new building on their current property and it just isn’t ready quite yet.  So, we are using a large Fellowship Hall type room thanks to the church’s generosity.  We were greeted by signs and a 4 Paws employee to direct us.  It was nice to see the families whom we have been talking with on our class’ Facebook group for months!

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The beginnings of class was short.  Introductions of all the trainers and a quick once around the room so that each family could present themselves.  Then, the moment we had all been waiting for!  They began bringing the dogs in!  One at a time with 10-15 minute gaps in between so that each family had their moment and could get their photos and such.  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 dogs came in and went to their children.  Still no Rocket.  But, we were patient.  And they definitely saved the best for last!  Our Rocket bounded in.  I was so emotional leading up to today.  Getting all teary any time I thought of what was coming.  I figured I would fall apart when our Rocket was finally in our arms.  But that did not happen…. it couldn’t.

The trainers had withheld breakfast so that we could feed them.  It would help with their excitement and bonding they said.  So, our guy was READY TO EAT!!!!!!  And he did not hold back.  He was focused!  It was pretty hilarious.  Have a look.

Cannon meets Rocket

This pic shows the first moment our family laid eyes on our Rocket!  I’m in love with this one!

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And here are a few pics from our special morning……

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The only thing was that Cannon was not feeling well.  His tummy was REALLY hurting and he had been emotional several times before Rocket came in.  His button was leaking and his jeans were bothering him.  (We tried switching him into comfier sweat pants but had minimal improvements).  When Rocket came in with so much energy, I think it was a little more than he was feeling up to in that moment.  The trainers assured us that this was the most excited we will see them. Just a few minutes into our first meeting with Rocket, Cannon began asking to go back to the hotel.  He just thought……I’m feeling bad, we got my dog, now let’s go lay down at the hotel.  He struggled a bit with the fact that we had to come back after lunch.  But we did our best to distract him with drawing and other toys.  But mostly he just sat and laid on one of us.

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During the afternoon session, Mark and I began learning basic commands.  “Sit” and “down,” as well as each command with a 30 second wait for a treat after task completion and walking a circle around them after completion.

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I was nervous about the start of the actual training as I have never had a dog before and have had extremely limited contact with dogs my entire life.  But I was pleased with how it went so far and look forward to learning more in the days to come.  Rocket was very well behaved and much more chill.  We are bonding.  I can feel it.  And Cannon really likes him, too.  The trainers say that the bonding process can take time between the child and dog, too.  And that’s perfectly normal.

Y’all!  I can’t possibly tell you how thankful we are!  This experience would have never been possible without each and every one of you coming alongside us and helping us get to this point.  You loved us, you prayed for us, you encouraged us, you helped us fundraise, you donated, and you helped us get the word out.  My gratitude is overflowing!  Thank you from the very bottom of our hearts!  Our child will never be the same!  And you did that!  The absolutely incredible contrast between these 2 days…..separated by six years is just unbelievable!  All our love!

 

TOMORROW!

World’s worst blogger here!  About to head off to bed before one of the biggest days in my family’s life!  Tomorrow…..after 2 years of searching for the right agency……paperwork….interviews…..more paperwork…..fundraising……LOTS more paperwork……a copious video filmed and assembled…..and waiting, waiting, WAITING……Cannon will FINALLY get his service dog!!!!!!!!

And he is the prettiest dog I have EVER seen!  (I know this has nothing to do with his purpose….but gosh darnit…..he is PRETTY!)

We had been told that we would receive a picture and letter from the dog 7-10 days before our class began.  We waited super anxiously…..so ridiculously excited to get our first glimpse.  The waiting and constant refreshing of my email about drove me crazy.  And we didn’t get it until 5 days before class!!!!!!  But we got it at a perfect time…..so perfect!

We had been waiting and hoping all day…..but nothing.  Cannon had been in terrible, terrible pain all day.  I wanted so badly to give him this news.  To give him something to be happy about.  But…..crickets.  Mark and I laid down with the boys for our regular nightly story and devotion reading time as well as prayers.  When we finished, I decided to jump up one last time and check to see if the email had come through.  I grabbed my phone out of an adjacent room and started walking back in Cannon’s room.  When I saw the email THERE….I almost dropped the phone.  My hand went straight to my mouth and tears dove out of my body.  I tried to read the letter but I’m not sure anyone could understand me….I was crying so hard.  It was a beautiful moment.  All of us together.  Having just prayed.  And getting our first look at this beautiful creature.  Our new family member and Cannon’s future best friend, companion, and protector.  HE IS SO PRETTY!

Have a look.

 

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And one of him as a puppy!  Awwwww!

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A precious element was the letter written from his new pup.

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Cannon has decided to change the dog’s name from Drake to Rocket.  He has been adamant about this ever since a friend suggested it.  Sounds like a pretty dynamic duo.  Don’t you think?  Cannon and Rocket!  🙂  I can’t wait!

One crazy thing that happened while packing for the trip!  I asked Townsend to grab off our shelf….the next book in the series of books that we read nightly.  The one we are currently reading….we will finish in a couple of days.  He does, hands it to me, and I couldn’t believe it!  Check out the title!  Coincidence?!  Nope!

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Here is a video and a few pics of our journey to Ohio…….

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Finally….I hope that this amazingly trained animal will further help my kiddo realize his purpose in life.  I pray that he will guide him, love him, comfort him, and give him the strength to pursue his true potential!  Watch out world!  With God, family, friends, and his Rocket by his side…….Cannon is gonna be UNSTOPPABLE!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lshUrUQaivA