This is a chapter from my book The Trials and Triumphs of Down Syndrome; I hope you enjoy reading it:
Our family home consists of me, my wife Michele, our sons Kyle and Hunter, my mother Emily and our two dogs Peanut Butter and Kookie (pronounced cookie). We have had P Nut for 3 years and adopted her from a Sheltie rescue after our previous sheltie, Fraser, had to be put to sleep due to a tumor. P Nut has seizures that are somewhat controlled by medication but it is the most frightful experience to witness; fortunately she only has them every five weeks and they usually last for an hour; unfortunately most of the time she has them are in the early morning hours between 1 an 3 AM. Other than this, P Nut is a faithful, loving friend and is exceptionally good with Kyle and Hunter.
Kookie is another story; Michele was introduced to Kookie when she was at the vet’s with Peanut Butter; Kookie had just been rescued from a chicken coop inNebraskaand Michele just happened to spot her while she was at the vet’s. Kookie was born without eyes and was estimated to be three months old; Michele fell immediately in love and called me to explain that she knew what she wanted for her birthday, Kookie. My immediate reaction was, NO, not another dog; but after thinking about the tone of Michele’s voice when she called, I called her back and told her that I was good with another dog.
People’s first reaction to Kookie is, ‘how does that dog see?’ to which we reply, ‘not having eyes, she doesn’t’ and then ‘how does she get around your house?’ our reply, ‘very well’. Kookie is a Sheltie mix, the breed of the father is not known but if I had to guess, and I do, I would guess Pomeranian. She has beautiful golden hair and the fluffiest tail and has a love for life and adventure that amazes me everyday. She runs circles around our backyard with reckless abandon, she uses a doggy door to go in and out of the house and she never sits around feeling sorry for herself, she doesn’t know any better.
Our sons, Kyle and Hunter, do not know to feel sorry for themselves either; since birth they wake up each day with Down syndrome and each night, they go to bed with Down syndrome; not special, not better or worse, just different. Yes, when we speak of our sons, we describe them as having ‘special needs’ but Kyle and Hunter are not special, just different. Not long ago I was speaking with a gentleman that is a father to a young woman born with Prader Willi syndrome and he made a comment I will never forget, ‘we need these people, they make us better people because of themselves’. How insightful and how tremendously accurate; our children make us better because of the changes we make in ourselves due to the disability they are born with.
Back to Kookie; as I was talking to Michele last night about how I continue to be amazed at how Kookie runs the yard, then she runs the house and how her senses are so keen; Michele says, ‘she definitely makes the most of everyday’ and instantly I think that,
‘She GETS the most out of everyday’’; literally, she gives everyday everything she’s got and she gets everything she wants out of everyday. The blind dog wins.
Now how, you ask, does this have anything to do with kids and marriages and relationships; well, it has everything to do with everything in life. Look, if a blind dog can love and trust us without ever seeing us; this is a life well lived. When our sons were born, we were not expecting them to be born with Down syndrome and for nearly fourteen years, we have found our way; through the therapies, the insurance claims, the school system, the hospitals, the doctors offices, community center boards, support groups, day care, no money and lots of bills, Staph infection, pneumonia, hysterectomy, for better and unfortunately worse and back to better again; we have bumped into our share of ‘life’, much like Kookie bumps into a wall, or door; but, we gather ourselves together, we love each other and we move on. We fix our wrong decisions, we learn from the past and we grow from it; because like Kookie, we may have to do it in the dark, but we will find our way.