an autism journey

Our Trip to 4 Paws


I wish I was one of those people who blogged daily about their time at 4 Paws for Ability. What a great way to share the journey and have those memories forever written down, but reality did not allow me to do that. Quite honestly, I was (and still am) exhausted. It was one of the toughest mental and physical times of my life.

I cannot help but think back to all those well intentioned, but slightly ignorant people who said to me “oh how wonderful, it will be like a vacation for your family.” Hahaha. It is a good thing none of those people were around during the 11 days of training, because I might have slapped them.

Since I didn’t give a daily play by play, let me just pick out one day at random and tell you what the schedule was like:

6:30 am Get up, take Lugnut out for a walk and go put a load of laundry on in the hotel facility since there were only two washers and one (sort of, but not really ) working dryer. This is the only time I could find it available.

7:00am Get everyone else up and begin the task of getting everyone ready with one bathroom. Feed Lugnut. Find time somewhere to put laundry in half working dryer.

8:00am Take family (including Lugnut) to breakfast in the lobby. Now I cannot stress enough how much work such a simple task is when you are not used to including a dog in your morning routine.  Take still wet laundry back to room to hang in every available spot to finish drying. Take Lugnut for a walk.

9:00am Gather up needed items for the day and head out to 4 Paws for Ability which is 20 minutes away

9:30am Caravan with half of classmates and trainers to unknown location to practice tracking

9:45-11:00am  Practice tracking in the crazy weather impacted by hurricane Sandy. Yes, we were out in the rain, sleet, wind and snow. We all were freezing and none prepared for the weather (I don’t think any of us were well enough prepared for the running part either.) The dogs however did not mind one bit. They were all intent on finding the hiding children in their care, which meant they would pull over anyone who couldn’t keep up. A few minor, yet painful (and mostly embarrassing) injuries were experienced by more than one family. As for myself, I never fell, but was certain 911 was going to need to be called to retrieve my out of shape body from the position that I collapsed in once reaching my son with a very eager dog in pursuit.

11:00 am class time at 4 Paws. A rare moment to sit, but only briefly since we spent time practicing what we were taught. Walk Lugnut

 12:30pm:  Lunch out in public with Lugnut. All I can say is one hour is not enough when you are not used to handling a dog in public. Some days the actual eating part did not happen for me.

1:30- 4:30pm: head over to the mall for public practice with the other families and trainers. This included 3 indoor tracks and walking around with Lugnut and a trainer for tips on how to improve any problems we were having. Of course, some random potty breaks were thrown in for human and dog alike. It seems some of the families’ dogs may have misunderstood when was the appropriate time for a potty break and when wasn’t (like in the middle of the mall), but Lugnut had that part under control. (THANK YOU LUGNUT!)

4:30pm: head back to the hotel and walk Lugnut

5:30pm: dinner at hotel lobby (with Lugnut) then feed Lugnut (and walk again)

6:30pm: Back out in public with Lugnut to fulfill homework requirements of public practice (Meijers was our place of choice, since they were close by and had a little of everything to practice around)

7:30pm: back to hotel and walk Lugnut, who afer a long day of work is nice and wound up.

8:00pm There is still homework to be done, practicing obedience, downs, unders, behavior disruption commands, etc.

9:00pm: Lugnut gets one final walk and into the kennel he goes for bed. The rest of us are so exhausted we simply drop.

Any wonder why I didn’t find time to blog?

That being said. It was amazing! I have never felt so comfortable with a group of people ever. The other families become more like your own family. They know exactly what you are going through, because they are living it too. There are no dirty looks, no rude remarks, no questions, just understanding. The staff at 4 Paws were equally awesome.

It was a CRAZY 11 days. There were many times when I simply cried thinking this is WAY too hard and wondering how and when I could back out of the whole thing, but then something happened…. A beautiful moment of looking back after a long, tiring day and seeing my child in the back seat with a dog laying his head in his lap…. And my child was happy, and smiling, and saying “Lugnut,” and then I remembered exactly why I was there and found the strength and courage to go on, and then…. Before I knew it, there I was standing at graduation and not wanting to leave. Yup, its worth it.


Comments on: "Our Trip to 4 Paws" (2)

  1. Wow…I hope lots and lots of people read this. It’s powerful story of what a parent will do to help their child have the best life!!!!! Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified for us, after all. Thanks for reminding me that.

  2. Congratulations on passing and being able to bring Lugnut home. The road ahead will be full of prayers from my family. God is with you on this journey.

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