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Doggie Boot Camp, Day 10. Hurt.

May 15, 2013

Today sucked.  I just wanted to get that out there.  A couple of minor successes and a little fun, yes.  But on the whole, I cannot polish this turd.

Ironically, it had absolutely nothing to do with doggie boot camp, or Merrows–at least not directly.  No, this train wreck of a day was brought to me by Alex.  And I can’t put my finger on what exactly caused it, though I always can proffer a guess.

It certainly dawned a nice day.  We all slept well.  More blue skies awaited my stroll from our room to the hotel lobby for breakfast.  Mild air streamed up from the south.  The forecast held true all day–warm and sunny.

Alex awoke well, too.  The morning progressed much like yesterday’s.  More tracking at the park, successes both with me and Kat on the flexi-leash.  One of these tracks was considered an “unknown” track in that Merrows was not allowed to know where Alex might have begun to disappear.  She and Kat handled the task like a champ.  We still will need to practice often to keep Merrows (and us) sharp with this skill.

Frankly, I was kind of surprised that Alex was so easygoing.  I was aggressive about offering him snacks, as he didn’t eat much for breakfast.  This alone isn’t surprising lately.  Alex seems like he is developing into a light breakfast-heavy brunch kind of guy.  Whatever…he ate well whenever he ate.

We headed back to the training center.  More talking and demonstrating obedience with all the dogs, along with a discussion of what will be required of the dogs when they have their ‘final exams’ before graduating as Certified Service Animals.  This does have me a little concerned, as Merrows does seem to perform well at the center, but less so with us at our hotel, or in places where we take her.  We have been told that this is to be expected with relatively young dogs like her.  We are to keep our end of the bargain up by continuing to be consistent in our commands/praising/corrections.  She will eventually adapt.  But, still…I always personally want to do as well as I can–or my dog can.

Class broke by about 1245 at which time we headed to the local mall for lunch.  The plan was another day of practicing “indoor” tracking, which can be more of a challenge sometimes.  As we had in the past, we gathered next to a children’s play area.  This was fine with us as Alex and Drew both love running around this small, enclosed space with soft, squishy shapes to jump on and crawl over.  It was a good outlet for any extra energy, as Alex was just starting to exhibit in the form of increased whining.

I slipped Alex’s shoes off and got into Helicopter Daddy mode.  Alex tends to act like the metal ball in a pinball machine, bouncing from slide to wall to adult to seat to child to tunnel.  You get the idea.  I wasn’t on station more than a minute when Alex dashed past me, a look of manic glee on his face, and came upon a small, adorable strawberry-haired little girl in a white and blue polka dot dress and head butted her from behind.  No reason.  Completely unprovoked.  She turned around and raised her hand to rub the back of her head where he hit her and looked at Alex as if to say “What the heck was that for?”  I rushed to her and asked if she was okay.  Just as I did, her lips started to quiver and her eyes narrowed as she began sobbing.  Instantly, her dad appeared behind me and scooped her up in his arms, asking her what had happened.  I replied for her, “My son bumped heads with your daughter.  He is a non-verbal boy with autism.  And he does not know better.  I am so sorry.”

My day got about as bad as it has in a long time right then and there.

It’s one thing for Alex to rear back and cold-cock me, or Kat or anybody who knows him.  It is entirely another for him to inflict pain on some innocent bystander.  I felt sick to my stomach, angry and ashamed.  All at once.  Autism sucks, ladies and gentlemen.

The little girl’s father responded with a wan smile, “It’s okay…I understand.  She’s fine.”  That’s very nice to hear, Sir.  You’re being very compassionate.  But I still feel like shit, though my feelings were pretty low on the totem pole right now.  And then there’s Alex, smiling, standing in the corner.  I dunno why I did it–or if it made a damn bit of difference, but I approached him, crouched down to look directly into his eyes and said “We don’t hit anyone, ever.  Do you understand?”

Listen, I know I’m not going to get a response from Alex like I would if I said the same to Drew.  But I went through the motions nonetheless.  Frankly, I hoped that the little girl in the polka dot dress might have turned around to see me reprimanding my son for his actions.  I don’t know if she was even watching.  So much of what I say to Alex, especially in public, seems more like it’s for the edification of those within earshot.  But I said it anyway.

I felt demoralized as I attempted to chew my mediocre steam table Chinese food I had just purchased to stem the hunger in my belly.  Even with Merrows quietly resting at my feet, waiting for her tracking assignment like a laid-back surfer dude waits for a good wave, I thought “How in the world is she going to help prevent Alex from doing something like that ever again?”  She might, she might not.  The hell if I know.  So much about Merrows the Super Duper Wonder Dog remains unproven, undefined.  As I mentioned a day or two ago, she’s a just a child herself.  Shame on me for wanting some help, some relief–today.

The indoor tracking went better than last time, which was reassuring.  Yeah, Alex still whined like a clogged vacuum cleaner, but he did keep it together until after we were done with the indoor tracking.  That’s when he really fell apart.

I couldn’t get him to walk back toward the center of the mall.  My lower back has been sore for over two weeks of picking all 60+ pounds of him again and again.  And with what he had already done to my tattered ego and Kat hands full with Drew and Merrows, I really was running on fumes.  I set him down.  I put on his helmet.  I let him tantrum and flop like a fish out of water.  Drew and I did have plans to go to the Air Force Museum with my friend and his son as soon as I could get back to the middle of the mall, as little time was left in our stay here.  But picking up Alex was like picking up a giant blob of heavy, sharp-edged and dangerous Jello.

Eventually I was able to scoop him up in my arms and carry him.  His helmeted head smacked my ear several times just as it had on Monday.  By the time I rendezvoused with Kat at the play area, I practically spat “I am at the end of my rope.  I am taking Alex to the car right now and I will see you there.”  Oh I’m sure I was a sight to see as I carried this screaming mess out to the car with me.

Loaded up a few minutes later, then off to the hotel, Kat and I got boys and dog into the hotel room.  I sighed a heavy sigh and turned around to get a little bit of respite at the museum.  Kat would have to bear the brunt of hurricane Alex for two hours.

When I got back, the tempest still raged.  Alex was in a change of clothes after a long shower.  I told Kat I would take over.  She replied he has been this way since I left.  Jesus.  Sure enough, there he was in his bedroom closet (he likes to sleep there), riled up and hitting himself.  On went his helmet again.  I collapsed on his bed.

Hearing him whine and cry and sulk pulls such a deep, resonant chord in me that rational thought is sometimes almost impossible.  After offering him a cup of yogurt (Was he still hungry?  No–at least not for what I had to offer him), I decided to take him for a walk.  We left the room.  He walked to the car.  I had my car keys. I strapped him in.  Where to?  Hell if I know.  Let’s find a playground.  Maybe one with a swing he might be able to regulate himself on.  I don’t know the area well, so it takes a while before I find one.  I take him out.  He calms down for 30 seconds.  He looks around, having never seen this particular playground before, and loses it again.  Head banging, fist flying, screaming, tears.  Fuck.

Back in the car we go.  Now it’s my turn to cry.  Big, pitiful tears.  I’m not so tough.  He is kicking my ass.  I’ve done what I could.  Uncle.  I drove back to the hotel.  “We’re going back, Alex.  Are you done yet?” I asked, with more than a little resentment in my tone.  Two minutes later, he was silent.  By the time we pulled into the hotel parking lot, he was jabbering like nothing in the past 5 hours had even transpired.  What the hell, over?

I told Kat I was going to dinner in the lobby.  30 minutes later I returned, Kat explaining that Alex had yet another “poopocalypse.”  Perhaps this and only this was his discomfort.  I have no earthy idea anymore.  Some of my longtime readers know about Alex’s renown digestive issues.  That’s all either Kat or I could surmise.  He cried himself to sleep about 30 minutes earlier than normal.  Not a good day for him, either.  I felt sad for him.

So it remains to be seen what Merrows can do to help him.   I just hope it’s something akin to comfort and love and familiarity.  And I hope he never hurts her.  It would break my heart some more.

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From → Alex, Autism, Family Stuff

One Comment
  1. Joan permalink

    Dave Thankfully Megan gave me the link to your blog, so I have been able to follow your Doggie Boot Camp experience as well. The “good day” stories and the “not so good” day stories. I have THOROUGHLY enjoyed reading your blogs, with laughter at times, empathy and tonight with tears running down my face, as I feel your pain and heartache at the end of Day 10.. While we, Megan, Paula and I, can totally relate to the roller coaster of emotions that consume your days, certainly, we can’t POSSIBLY, REALLY, know, what it’s like to walk in yours and Kats shoes. When there is no obvious explanation, or cure, for the whining and/ or behaviors, that can cycle for hours; we all struggle, with Alex. 😦 Then, there is Joy your Heart and Music in your Ears, when Alex is in a “good” place and blesses us with his beautiful smiles and delightful giggles!! 🙂 You and Kat are 2 amazing people and very special parents!! Alex and Drew are very lucky little boys and Merrows is a lucky lady to be moving into a such a wonderful new home! Have a safe trip home and hopefully a peaceful weekend regrouping! Can’t wait to see Alex on Monday!

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