Now that I have your attention, I promise, you’ll get to the end of this episode of “You Can’t Make it Up!”
The day started with another successful training for Meghan and Ella at Barnes and Noble. They are ready for their Public Access Test, and I am optimistic they will do well together before we get on the road to return to New York tomorrow.
We waited over 3 years for this dog. There were many days we thought she was not meant to be. There were honestly more days of feeling defeated than hopeful.
Early in the process Meghan interviewed via FaceTime in my car, before a swim meet, with Jennifer, the owner of Medical Mutts. During the process we worked with Eva, director of client services.
Early in the process Meghan read everything she could get her hands on. As the years went on she put the books away until they gathered dust.
In between there were countless emails between myself and Eva. There was always a quick reply, and kind reassurance. Although as I travel back through three years of email I can see more clearly now where there were some lapses in our communication. Meghan is a very different human than she was in 2017. Because of that, her needs changed. At one point her dog was to also be capable of mobility assistance. Over time, we dropped that piece as her legs got stronger. The one thing, the biggest thing that never changed, was TOUCH.
Meghan needs to sleep holding something she can feel breathing. For a while it was me. Then I was able to sub in some dogs, first April, then Jax. The biggest thing, the first thing we wanted a service dog for was the sleeping. A dog to sleep with her, and to help her wake to an alarm, would give her the first major steps towards independence.
During this past week many things have become evident. Some were expected, and others unexpected. Some were awesome, and others were just not.
One thing that has been solidly evident is that Ella’s trainer, Michelle, is true to her word at all times. Michelle did not present as warm and fuzzy. (Actually her intelligent, focused presentation reminded me a great deal of Meghan.) She has proven to be awesome, and utterly effective. As the week has gone on every thing that Michelle said she taught, every single behavior has become evident. Michelle has gone above and beyond this week to make sure that Meghan and Ella pair effectively. She has come to the hotel to practice elevator and long lead walking. She has met us on her days off. She made it her business to meet up to being Ella closer to the touch Meghan needs. Today she brought a blanket for Ella, talked through a plan with Meghan and once again amazed me with her genuine sincerity.
Michelle taught all she was told to teach. And I’ll leave that right there.
Somewhere there was a breakdown in communication above her that led to confusion on Meghan’s needs. It could have been due to the length of time, or the changes. It could have been a mistake. It could have been any number of things. But it happened. Meghan will succeed building the rest of the behaviors Ella needs. Over time.
And to some extent that time is normal. No service dog team goes home fully functional. They need to learn each other. It is an arranged marriage where the partners need time to learn what generates happiness in the other.
So while we have mixed emotions about a bunch of things, HOPE prevails.
Even today. Today I spoke to Jennifer, the owner, for the first time since 2017. I spoke with her out of necessity.
By the third night we had Ella she was allowing touch. It didn’t take Meghan long to point out the lump in her side. We mentioned it. We were told to wait. We mentioned it again. Attempts were made to explain it away. We mentioned it again and finally today we were connected to their veterinary facility.
The vet said it is likely a hernia. He seemed unaffected. After a physical exam, and quite physical by Meghan’s description, he told Meghan to massage it, and take her to our vet if it got worse.
That was the icing on a slightly undercooked cake.
I spoke with Eva, who directed me to Jennifer. And that is how we ended up back on the phone today. Odd bookends to this experience, really.
I received the reassurance that Ella had been thoroughly checked by their vet. I internally contemplated his ability to be thorough. I was promised that the facility will pay for any medical bills related to the hernia diagnosis.
Ella meets our vet on Sunday.
This is not exactly the homecoming we were hoping for. Maybe our vet will see something different, or be able to offer some reassurance.
My mind can’t go too much past that.
I’ve got three years to reflect on, a public access test to cheer my favorite team through, and 750 miles to drive before we introduce Ella to Jax and April.
We will continue to take this journey, as we have done so many others, one day at a time.
Ella, you’re one of us now. Hernia or not, whatever comes your way, we’ve got you girl.