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Sunday, February 17, 2008

The beginning of a beautiful friendship

I posted two pictures on Friday; one of Jordan greeting her new charge, and the other of Yonah sitting on the floor with Lulu on his lap.  It is this latter photo that requires a little extra explanation.

As I've mentioned before, Yonah is a bright, wonderful four year old... who has some fairly significant sensory issues.  These issues manifest themselves in many ways, but one of the most noticeable to anyone (or anything) interacting with Yonah for the first time is that he sometimes has trouble regulating his touches.

Yonah's hugs are often the culmination of a running start.  His 'snuggles' in bed or on the couch are often full of elbows and knees which he didn't adequately stow before burrowing in.  His caresses, and even kisses, are delicious to someone who is prepared for the loving onslaught...  but they can sometimes be a tad overwhelming if you don't see them coming.

Yonah doesn't fully understand that his unbridled displays of affection are sometimes uncomfortable, or even painful, for those on the receiving end.

To be fair, things have gotten quite a bit better over the past year but even our older dog Jordan, who has been his constant and faithful companion for as long as Yonah has been alive, never leaves herself without an escape route when in close quarters with him.  While I think it would be fair to say that Jordan's love for Yonah is completely unconditional... her instinct for self preservation is still strong enough that she is uber-vigilant when he is feeling affectionate.

Which brings us to the new addition to the family you saw in Friday's photo; Lulu.

For all the excitement and anticipation that's been bubbling around the family over the past few weeks, Yonah has kind of gotten lost in the noise.  For a week or more, while the rest of us were talking loudly about whose dog she would be... in whose room she would sleep... who would feed her, walk her, love her more... Yonah quietly told the four walls (and anyone who would listen) that he was getting a new puppy named Lulu.

On the way out to the breeder to pick up the puppy on Friday, the chatter in the car was deafening.   Zahava was loudly quoting chapter and verse from the puppy training books she's been reading (by the Monks of New Skete), and I was holding forth on who would be responsible for what.  The big kids squabbled amiably about who would be the better master and who Lulu would inevitably love most. 

And all the while Yonah sat alone in the eye of the storm... smiling in happy anticipation, but unsure where he rated in all the assignments and claims of responsibility.

Despite everyone's solemn promise not to startle Lulu with noise or wild gesticulating, when we finally arrived at the breeder, everyone immediately began shouting happily and vying to hold the little dear.  Photos were snapped and the puppy was passed willy-nilly from hand to hand.  Everyone got a turn to hold and caress here, and the little black bundle never came to rest for more than a moment.

Before the tug-o-war could begin over who would hold Lulu on the ride how, Zahava put her foot down.  Since I was driving, she made a unilateral decision that she would hold the puppy all the way home so as not to compound the potential stress of a first time car ride for the puppy.  The kids weren't happy about the decision, but at least Ari and Gili could take small comfort from the fact that one's loss was not the other's gain.

And again, though disappointed, Yonah accepted not having access to Lulu during the trip with stoic aplomb.

When we finally got home (over an hour's drive), everyone piled out of the car and immediately hands went out to hold the puppy and carry her inside.  But I'd laid claim to the privilege of carrying the new arrival over the threshold... so it wasn't until we were inside that Lulu again began the circuit from hand to hand.

And yet again, Yonah was pushed aside each time he tried to get a turn with 'his' puppy.

Once the commotion began to subside, Zahava went to prepare some food and water for the puppy and Ariella and Gilad began taking photos as Lulu ambled happily around, exploring her new home.  The only one (besides Lulu, of course) who wasn't actively doing anything specific was Yonah.  He had long since given up trying to get our attention and had plopped himself down in the middle of the living-room.

Without needing to be prompted, Lulu immediately took notice of a small person sitting on the floor amidst the sea of Giants who were parading around the room. 

It may have been that Yonah was the only person in the room who wasn't running around, shouting happily or creating bright explosions of light. 

It may have been that Yonah was the closest to Lulu in size. 

But whatever the reason, Lulu went to Yonah like a ship goes eagerly towards a sheltered harbor during a storm.  And without hesitating for a moment, she plopped herself into Yonah's lap and fell instantly asleep there.

In order to understand what a shock this had to have been for Yonah, it should be mentioned here that no living thing had ever before put itself entirely at his mercy.   The animals who visited his gan for play therapy were cuddly and passive, but they and their adult handlers were always wary of the grabby little kids. 

Yonah's siblings and parents frequently cuddle with him, but our instinct for self-preservation ensures we are always careful to do so only on our terms, and often only until he falls asleep. 

Even his beloved Jordan, who has indulged Yonah's affections since he first began to crawl, has never closed both eyes when he's been within petting range... and certainly has never slept soundly while Yonah was in the room.

Yet here was this new puppy that Yonah had been breathlessly anticipating for weeks... the one he'd been telling all the big kids at the bus stop about... the one he'd tried so many times to join his siblings in discussing... asleep on his lap!

The photo I posted of Yonah and Lulu on Friday doesn't begin to capture the magic of that special moment. 

I have to admit that I was tempted to drop the camera and rescue the sleeping puppy from Yonah's clutches.  But Yonah just sat... barely breathing... with his hand poised, but not daring to touch this small furry miracle that had occurred in his lap.

And then, slowly at first, but soon with a bit more confidence, Yonah began to gently stroke the sleeping puppy's head... with soft, perfectly appropriate caresses.  So light was his touch that Lulu never even  stirred... a fact that didn't escape Yonah's proud notice.

On the car ride home from the breeder Zahava had whispered to me that holding the puppy had made her heart nearly burst with love.  As I watched my precious Yonah experience the joy of receiving complete and perfect trust for the first time in his life... I understood exactly what she meant.

I'm sure we'll still have to be vigilant to make sure that Yonah's love for Lulu doesn't bubble over into over-enthusiastic displays of affection.  But as Rick said at the end of Casablanca, "... I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship".


Posted by David Bogner on February 17, 2008 | Permalink


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Very sweet story. Dogs are the BEST.

Posted by: Benji | Feb 17, 2008 4:06:19 PM

That's great. They look very happy together.

Posted by: Jack | Feb 17, 2008 5:14:15 PM

what a fabulous photo! Welcome Lulu!

Posted by: nrg | Feb 17, 2008 5:21:39 PM

Isn't it interesting that some of the most unexpected and surprising things can have a healing effect? I'm so happy for your family. My younger son wants puppy in the worst way, but we simply are too busy to give the dog the proper amount of attention right now. I'll have to live vicariously through your family. :D

Posted by: Maya | Feb 17, 2008 6:49:39 PM

How wonderful for Yonah and Lulu both!

Posted by: Rahel | Feb 17, 2008 7:28:13 PM

Beautiful pup, beautiful child, beautiful photo.


Posted by: Baila | Feb 17, 2008 11:05:00 PM

Awwwww. That's just delicious.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Feb 18, 2008 2:22:51 AM

Where was the Kleenex alert on that post?
So beautiful...
Enjoy Lulu!

Posted by: Sara K | Feb 18, 2008 4:07:52 AM

I'm with Sara! Kleenex alert! That photo is priceless on its own, let alone with that story behind it. :)

Posted by: Chantyshira | Feb 18, 2008 4:23:34 AM

Wow--yes---kleenex alert was in order!

Posted by: Gila | Feb 18, 2008 1:21:36 PM

You oughta have a special Warning Sticker affixed to posts like this: "May cause uncontrollable expostulations of 'Awwwww...!'"

Posted by: Elisson | Feb 18, 2008 1:24:01 PM

Feel free to bring the puppy over to play with my kids.

Posted by: JoeSettler | Feb 18, 2008 3:00:49 PM

That's beautiful... ;')

Posted by: Ezzie | Feb 18, 2008 5:08:03 PM

Is it worth a post to tell us where "Lulu" came from? My son named his dog "Muktze" because of the cartoon in Otiot (and yes, he is brown with ears that flop over).

Posted by: westbankmama | Feb 18, 2008 5:21:06 PM

That picture is priceless! Yonah looks even more shocked and in awe than you described. Congratulations on the new arrival.

Posted by: Noa | Feb 19, 2008 1:09:49 PM

awwwwww....what a perfect match!

Posted by: aliyah06 | Feb 19, 2008 2:45:09 PM

the puppies found each other.
they always do.

Posted by: weese | Feb 19, 2008 3:25:45 PM

Knowing Yonah and being a recipient of his many enthusiastic hugs and kisses, it's so cool that he 'gets' that this is something that needs tenderness and he knew how to give it. A learning experience, but truly a great relationship blossoming for them both. Very sweet. (:: wiping my eyes:::)

Posted by: Val | Feb 19, 2008 10:40:00 PM

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