CPNJ / Horizon High School asked us to make a donation on #GivingTuesday and to take an “UNselfie” sharing what inspired us to donate.
“What does Jack do at school?” is a question I’m often asked. I usually answer, “Jack does what every other 16 year-old boy does – he hangs with his peeps and flirts with pretty girls.”
In fact, Jack does a lot more at Horizon High School. He gets therapy (PT, OT, and Speech). He has classes in Science, Career Skills, Social Studies, Language Arts, Life Skills, Drama, World Cultures, Art, Music, Technology, and Math. He works at the school store. He participates in modified sports. He attends dances and parties and plays. He goes on field trips to Trader Joes to practice “appropriate behaviors” (although I think that might be more hanging and flirting).
After The PG Chambers School we were concerned that we wouldn’t find a good fit for our boy as he entered his high school years. There are no schools for ALD boys post transplant – no schools designed for handsome young men who understand inappropriate humor but can’t speak or reliably use the bathroom. We did find several schools that could handle Jack’s needs but Horizon had something that the others were missing. They approach school the way that Jack approaches life – with GUSTO!
Cerebral Palsy of New Jersey (CPNJ) runs programs for people of all ages with all sorts of “complicated” issues. And, they treat each of those people with respect and devotion. Monica (Jack’s one/one aide and a friend) often sends home pictures of Jack during the day. Whether it’s him in the classroom, planting in the garden, or rockin’ out at a dance party he always has a huge smile on his face. THANK YOU CPNJ FOR CONTINUING THE SMILES!
Last Friday I found myself at the veterinarians office explaining to the woman behind the desk that NOTHING could happen to Keegan, “Seriously. He’s not just my son’s assistance dog, he’s family.”
Keegan is an exceptionally well-trained dog but, as we were told again and again in team training (the 2 week boot camp Jack and I attended before bringing Keegan home), dogs are dogs and we need to make sure they don’t get into anything they shouldn’t. I lost my focus last week and Keegan ate a “foreign object”.
At first I didn’t think too much about it. Finn (our pet dog who also goes by the name “Bad Dog”) eats things all the time and he’s managed to live longer than his breeder promised — I mean, estimated. But, when Keegan started vomiting I took him directly to his veterinarian. X-rays and sonograms determined that he’d done a number on his stomach but he’d managed to expel the majority of the the object and he should pass the remainder. He was given IV fluids and we were sent home with special food and instructions to closely monitor him and sort threw his elimination. I assured his doctors that I was well versed in both monitoring and elimination.
“Monitoring” translated into lots of middle of the night check ins, and “sorting through his elimination” was especially interesting with limited sleep. It was a tough few days before he bounced back, but we were willing to do anything for Keegan. I knew how important he was for Jack, but until last week I hadn’t appreciated how important our furry friend is to our entire family. He keeps me company while Jack’s at school. He’s my walking partner and my sounding board. He knows all of Anna’s secrets. He allows Dan and I to sleep comfortably, knowing that Jack has his buddy cuddling next to him in bed. And, Keegan warms all of our hearts with his ability to entice people into approaching Jack – people otherwise intimidated by his quirkiness.
I’m often asked what Keegan does as an assistance dog and I’ve always answered with the same explanation, “He’s Jack’s best friend – his constant companion”. Now I know that Keegan is much more than Jack’s dog; he belongs to all of us. He’s a big, hairy piece of duct tape.
If you would like to learn more about assistance dogs (or make a donation), please check out http://www.cci.org