Our son Gage has always loved animals. I’ve written about him before and his connection to his dog Lucy, whom we lost in April of this year. There was a very hard time for him when Lucy was the only one is our household who could reach him. Lucy will always hold a beloved spot in my heart. So, it’s no surprise that even though he might have not been totally ready for another dog in the home, when the time did come and I got my dog Maggie, he connected with her and admitted he did love her after all.
Gage isn’t what you’d call sociable. He doesn’t have a huge circle of friends and he rarely sees them outside of school. He’s a quite boy, which has a lot to do with anxiety and his nervousness at new situations. He doesn’t mind a low key routine. He doesn’t need a lot of new experiences or to be a kid who always needs to be on the go. I think he’ll always have a slower paced life.
While we do try to expose him to experiences, there are times when it’s just not worth it to push him. It never ends well when we push too hard. On the other hand, we do look for opportunities for him to spread his wings. I’d mentioned on social media that he would love to volunteer for an animal rescue group but the age was 16 and we were nearly a year away from that age and a friend, who is a vet, sent me a direct message. She asked if he would like to come and volunteer on a Saturday at her practice sometime.
“Yes. Cool.” That was Gage’s response and within a week or so we drove him the 20+ miles and dropped him off for four hours. He liked it a lot. I got a text message from my friend who said he was doing great, after I checked in with her, always just a little worried about how he was acting without us to manage him a little bit. He mentioned to her he wanted to come back every Saturday.
I felt relief first. And then immediate happiness for him. To have Gage, who is just a different kid, accepted into a mainstream situation as normal as volunteering at a vet office is just about the best thing that happened to me last year. I’m not kidding when I tell you I cried when she sent me a picture of him, truly happy, while interacting with a dog. She mentioned he was interacting with clients, asking great questions and helpful. She sent me the picture above showing him in the vet tech shirt she gave him when she knew he wanted to return.
A couple of weeks ago she sent him a note and a name tag. To say he was proud is an understatement. He thought it was ridiculous I asked him if it was okay to put his picture on Facebook holding his new name tag.
The one thing that happened beside pride when he opened up the envelope and read the note was acceptance. He felt accepted. It was a unique experience of being given the unbelievable gift of an experience that tested his ability to be out in the world. He left the safety of his home and ventured out to be an integral part of a small business where he is appreciated. I sent her a note right away to thank her and she mentioned Gage had started cleaning out a closet to become his office. I guess he plans on being there a while.
My friend, the vet, probably doesn’t even understand what she has done for him, really. While she knows a lot of his story, I’m sure she didn’t understand what it would mean to him or honestly, what it would mean to me. When someone gives your child a chance at a typical experience without the presence of a parent it’s unbelievably touching. It means that there will likely be other people who do the same thing; so it gives me some hope. It also means with enough of these experiences, Gage will likely be able to build a life of experiences for himself. It gives him the knowledge and confidence that he can be out in the world in typical Gage fashion, just being himself.
Dr. Alisan might have very well changed the course of Gage’s young life for the next few years. I can’t even put into words what it means to this mother. Then again, she’s a mother too, so maybe she does know.
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