Joey is only 2 years old yet he has been through more in those short years than most people experience in their entire life. Born a preemie at only 25 weeks, his twin brother passed away at 5 months old, Joey was in the hospital for the first 4 months of his life. He battled lung and breathing issues, infection scares, the most severe brain bleed causing hydrocephalus and long term brain damage, one heart surgery at 2 days old, 4 eye surgeries, a hernia repair, 2 brain surgeries, a multitude of ambulance rides back to the hospital and countless needle pokes and IV’s. Long-term, Joey struggles with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, blindness, communication problems, paralyzed vocal cord, kyphosis of the spine, pulmonary issues and overall developmental delay. We are constantly monitoring his shunt to make sure it is functioning as he’s already had one replacement surgery. As his parents, we were told on multiple occasions that Joey’s life would not be viable and if he did survive through this “preemie-hospital” phase, he would most likely be of little quality and low function.
Today, at two years old, this little boy, this amazing little boy is rolling, trying his best to communicate his desires (which we are learning together), identifying body parts when asked, holding his own bottle, trying to sit up on his own, sitting in a wheelchair, using a stander, bearing weight on his legs, smiling and laughing constantly, playing instruments (banging on them mostly). He loves music more than anything and is one of the most determined little boys I’ve ever seen. He desperately wants to move, to talk, to be active, to be ALIVE and live his life to the fullest.
Although not a fan of his little sister, she has motivated him to roll (away from her mostly) and he does fine comfort in her presence when we are away from home. Thank goodness because he’s about to get a second little sister. Joey loves his independence and so we are trying to help him find this independence in a new area.
We first met Adam in April, 2001 through Allie Keaton of My Service Dog. Adam is a beautiful smart Labradoodle trained by Allie and he can do amazing things. We met at Chili’s Restaurant and Adam was so quiet and still sitting under the table that I almost forgot he was there. We then went to Target and saw Adam place things in our cart, open doors, and eventually take off my husband’s sock and shoe, by request of course. When Joey met Adam, he was immediately at peace with him, interested, not scared or agitated. Being blind and developmentally delayed, Joey has extreme sensitivity issues, but not with Adam. Joey actually wanted Adam next to him, he was curious. As parents, we knew that this was the perfect plan for Joey, his own dog, a best friend to motivate and encourage him, not like his parents, but independently.
And where do we go to find a dog like Adam? Why, to the same breeder as Adam of course. We talked with Dr. Laura of Lake Country Labradoodles. We love the idea of a non-shedding dog, not only for our Joey’s allergies but also for the public’s allergies. Her dogs are not only gorgeous, but smart and well taken care of. She is an animal lover and it shows. She promised to find us the perfect puppy to become a part of our family. From there, Allie will take Joey’s puppy and train her to be Joey’s best friend.
Our hope is that our new family member will be able to help Joey with many things such as simple security cuddles when he’s feeling anxious (which lead to seizures for him), possible seizure detection and comfort during seizures, help with dressing and picking up dropped objects, help with balance and therapy, provide aid when necessary as well as comfort, and motivation, motivation, motivation. Joey is so motivated by cheers and attention and our hope is that this new family member will help to provide his/her own special kind of love, encouragement and motivation. With up to 10 therapy sessions a week, which Joey thoroughly enjoys, having an extra motivation right with him will hopefully inspire Joey to push even harder than he already desires. We do not force our sweet Joey to do anything; HE is the instigator behind it all. We simply give him the love and cheers he cherishes and having another cheerleader and motivator will only fulfill his life more. Many of his therapists are in awe of Joey’s determination and drive, especially for being such a young little guy.
But there’s also a hope for me as a parent. Our hope is that this dog will be a comfort to me, alert me when Joey is in need, when he wakes up, when he needs something that only I can provide. The comfort of being able to sleep peacefully at night without worrying about breathing issues because I know this new family member will come and get me is immeasurable. The idea of having a helper so totally devoted to Joey and his needs brings tears to my eyes, joy to my heart and hope to my future that there will be a time when Joey can become more independent the way he so desires and some peace to my soul that we will have a true friend, loyal companion and devoted member of the family who will be Joey’s own personal guardian angel. We can’t wait to have our new family member, our new guardian angel with us and we are so excited to be working with Allie and My Service Dog!