The loneliest job

I have come to the realization that parenting in the post modern, imperialist, consumption-crazy part of the world in which my family and I live, with a special needs child, whilst juggling a demanding professional job and another sensitive child whose needs may or may not be getting met… is lonely.

So, so lonely.

I had to call 911 again yesterday when the dozen plus people (and me, and Miracle #1) could not find Baby A (who just turned 4). He was found, afraid and red hot, buried underneath a big bean bag chair where I can only assume he was hiding initially to be playful but which ultimately almost became suffocating (and yet he doesn’t regulate himself enough to just get out from under it).

But until then – until he was found, almost an hour later – it was heart stopping.

He has been approved for one on one child care subsidy at his daycare. But they haven’t hired anyone yet.

The bean bag and suffocation hazards did not feature much on my radar before last night. Now fear and the scope of potential sources of suffocation for a sensory kid who loves compression and small spaces into which to cram his lean frame feels overwhelming. I feel the panic rising and an anxiety attack gurgling up just writing about it.

I was not alone when this happened. Other parents, their children – all of whom know Azulito and that he is special in his own way – and some of the daycare staff were there and were helpful. Some were simply amazing.

But the LP wasn’t there and I never did reach him. And when he came home late I didnt even want to talk about it. What for?

What I feel – beyond fear and the tidal wave of anxiety yesterday’s madness has evoked – is lonely.

So, so lonely.

I’ve said it before. It bears repeating. Parenting is hard. Parenting special kids is hard.

So, so hard.

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Diagnoses: the good, the bad and the ugly

We waited almost a year for the appointment. I started out suspecting Baby Azulito (now preschooler Azulito!) may be on the autism spectrum. But since he began to receive state funded supports for his former severe speech delay and them for various other symptoms/ issues (separation anxiety, sensory seeking and defensive behaviours, hyperactivity, inflexibility to change/ new/ different/ unexpected/ unscheduled, social anxiety) his symptoms began to shift somewhat and I wondered where we would end up.

This past week Azulito was diagnosed with severe Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and anxiety. The specialized psychiatrist who assessed him offered to follow and treat him. I accepted. I told his child care providers the following day, with a plan to include them in the recommended path  forward once we have our first private meeting with the new doctor in a few weeks.

Two days later they told me he had to leave the child care centre unless he attended with a full time one on one Aide, claiming they were not equipped to handle his needs.

And so it begins.

The Unthinkable

Yesterday our large very sweet and mild mannered foster dog who was on psychiatric meds for anxiety and whose background was a void bigger and blacker than she was attacked my senior smaller dog and tried to kill her.

I intervened every single way I knew how. Over and over. The sweet lovable foster dog was unstoppable. She lunged under and around my body as I tried to form a human shield, when all else failed.

I have stopped many dog fights. This was nothing like that. I’ve never seen anything like it. A switch had flipped and she could not hear me, see me, or stop.

I screamed and screamed – as loud as I could, not caring who I woke – for help. Nobody came.

Eventually I threw myself over my senior dog, leaving only enough space to avoid crushing her and elbowing the big dog in the face. My old girl bit me, not knowing it was me, fighting as she was for her life.

I got off easy. I have a number of wounds (a foot, a hand) but no stitches and a prescription for antibiotics that should prevent any further physical harm befalling me.

My senior dog needed emergency surgery we cannot afford. I charged and borrowed to do it anyway as the vets had stabilized her and things looked promising if only she could have and recover from the surgery. Then she didn’t. She’s now on life support. I don’t know if she will live.

Other volunteers with the rescue have chipped in, their kindness precipitating more tears.

I’m having trouble living. Breathing. Eating. Sleeping. The lump in my throat is hard and sharp, my nerves jagged and jarred into action every time my phone rings.

Please don’t let it be the vet. Please don’t let it be more bad news.

Everything I thought I knew is in question. I am in question.

The grief is undulating though never softer in pitch than the roar of a stormy sea. I feel… I don’t even know anymore.

I feel at fault.

And here’s the thing. I did – nay, we did (the rescue, professional trainers, vets, vet techs) – everything, literally everything, to avoid this, never anticipating it could happen, this attack, unprovoked, nonsensical. Not by this dog. Unthinkable.

The day before this happened these two dogs were chumming on the couch together. I took a picture as the big dog gave up room so the senior could be comfortable.

I never saw this coming.

And I could not – despite it all – make her stop.

It is hard to keep breathing.

Autism spectrum?

Today I took my beloved Azulito to his paediatrician and received a referral for an autism spectrum disorder assessment.

The palpable judgement from other parents in the room whose kids were capable of sitting and waiting quietly was soul crushing as he struggled through a vast array of “symptoms”.

The wait is 6 to 9 months to even walk in the door.

I love this child. So much.

I haven’t cried like this or felt so shattered in a long time.

This chapter in life is tough. And very lonely.

Cancer

Gosh. I am so sorry for not writing. Ever.

Life has been busy. So busy. I’m parenting my crazy boys, fostering rescue dogs and working full time. The sleep deficit is at an all time high (low?).

But that’s not what brings me here.

I am stricken with an irrepressible urge to cry. A big ugly tear stained face and puffy eyes style cry.

I just ran into a colleague who has been off work for more than a year after being diagnosed suddenly with advanced and aggressive cancer.

I wanted so much to say “you look great”. I couldn’t. I wanted to cry. She looks and sounds like death. It took my breath away. Tears filled my eyes, my heart leapt to my throat, I could barely choke out “how are you?” Seems such an idiotic thing to ask. But it fell out of my mouth before I could shut the damned thing.

I walked back to my office to regroup and sort out the flood of feelings. I had this overwhelming sense of sadness. I felt afraid for my colleague. I missed my Mom. I felt ashamed of my shock and feeble question. Most of all I wanted (and still want) to cry.

Gosh. I hate this merciless disease.

Rescue Me, Rescue Her

I did it. I hemmed and hawed for ages. Then I submitted an application with Boxer Rescue. I followed the story of a three year old Boxer whose issues looked daunting, despite being almost entirely training-based. 

The LP objected. He relented eventually and said to do what I wanted. 

So I did. Yesterday I drove three and a half hours to pick up that wild child. And over three hours back home with her. 
I slept on the hardwood floor (in a sleeping bag built for a 5 year old) beside her xpen last night so she would settle. Ouch. She stopped crying and barking and stayed put. 

This dog needs work. A lot of work. She nips and jumps. High. She is very strong and huge for a female. She wants to play and play and play and believes (I think) it’s all harmless as nobody ever taught her four on the floor. At all times. 

I wanted to cry last night, asking myself what the heck I was thinking when I signed up for this. Then while I was trying to work from home (for her and our smaller, senior dog) earlier today she showed me that she can be very gentle and sweet. And afraid. She doesn’t want to be left alone. Who can blame her? This is pit stop number 3 for her in the past 2 months. Anxiety or an aversion to separation was to be expected. 

We have the dog on a “shutdown” of at least 2 weeks to ease her into our lives and to allow our resident dog to get acclimatized and reassured of her importance at the same time. I can’t take the rescue on leash walks outside our home/yard yet and she has to be in the xpen or leashes with me at all times (or in a crate but I haven’t yet decided if I am going to buy a crate, though she is allegedly crate trained). She broke down her xpen and figured out how to unlatch the gate on our fence (smart! scary!) already this morning so we aren’t off to the greatest start.
I have asked myself along the way why this dog and this business of taking in a new rescue called to me. Sure I want to help a dog in need. But it isn’t just that. This is about me too. My last rescue Boxer taught me so much – better said, we schooled each other notwithstanding our (my) countless mistakes. 

Rescuing this dog is also about reclaiming some part of me that feels lost or missing. I haven’t found the words yet to name that piece but I feel it in my bones. For one thing I have a deep need to take up space and time in my own life for me and my passions.  I’ve gone back to running. When it became clear our senior small dog is not able to manage longer runs anymor, another Boxer as my running companion seemed a natural next step. I also felt and feel strongly that I want my boys to learn about rescue animals and perseverance and the rewards of both. 

Am I in over my head? 

Probably. At least for the immediately foreseeable future. 

That thought struck me like an anvil yesterday as I prepared for the drive to pick  her up. It returned last night and early this morning. Then something shifted and hope returned. 

Need I remind myself my last rescue Boxer had never been socialized, was a wild thing with coprophagia (ew – look it up!), was severely malnourished and neglected and suffered from terrible separation anxiety for years? And that despite all odds she turned into an incredibly balanced and relaxed friend who spent 13 years with me?

Yep. That thought keeps my feet on the ground and hope in my heart. Never mind the tooth marks and scratches or the dog hair all over the place. I’m going to give this neglected girl my best. And see what happens. 

Stay tuned. And wish me luck. Please.