Matt and I have been accused of loving chaos. We must. It’s the only explanation I can muster for why we thought that chewed shoes, urine-saturated carpet, and incessant barking were missing elements in our already crowded lives. I bet if I’d have polled other parents of Aspies (especially those with other animals), or even parents with other kids – we’d have been told to flee the prospect of getting a puppy. Maybe it was baby fever. Two of our friends had just had babies. In fact, the night we picked our Texas Heeler, Zelda, out of the litter, we had just left the maternity ward at the hospital. I remember raising her sweet face to mine in the car ride home and cooing to Matt, “We have a baby!”
Never, EVER trust a woman with heaving hormones. She will prove to be convincing. And your ultimate undoing.
I love Zelda, but now my house is a war zone. The problem of Noah and Zelda keeps growing as they do. (You can read about its origins in “The Flow Down”.) They scrap and tussle, and one of them always ends up crying. We are animal lovers. We have two dogs, a fish, a guinea pig, and a horse to prove it. But Noah’s flailing, his screaming that “She’s killing me!” and his pathetic sobbing are just about to fry the last sane hair on my head. All I want to do is get the pork chops in the oven. Instead, I’m having to try my puppy for attempted manslaughter. FIFTY TIMES A DAY.
Here’s what it looks like.
“Kids, go outside and play with the dogs.”
Two minutes later, I pull back the sheer curtain to watch Noah lift Zelda off the ground by her jowls. She is growling the playful growl of puppyhood. He lets her down, and she leaps up at him, wagging her tail. I am silently thanking God she is a gentle soul, and running for the door to yell at Noah to be gentle (for the 459th time that day), but before I can make it, I watch him crouch to her level and extend his arm, which Zelda naturally bites. He pushes it in her mouth – back to the heaviest of her teeth – but when I pull open the door, Noah falls to the grass, looks up at me and starts his heartbreaking wail that “She’s biting me!!”
For the first few months, I thought we’d chosen the wrong dog, that she was naturally aggressive toward people. Then I observed her with my other children, and other than her increasing size (which is a threat to the smaller children only because she loves to jump up and kiss them, and in so doing, drops them to the floor), she is the most affectionate dog I’ve met. So why was the biting still an issue with Noah?
It wasn’t until today that I figured it out – why his stimming, his flapping and facial tics have slowed immensely in the past few weeks. Zelda’s heavy teeth are providing him the pressure his brain is looking for. There isn’t a need to flap when your arms are already “grounded” by your dog’s jaws. He has the bruises to show for it. (In that vein, I’d like to personally thank Noah’s teacher and the staff at his Christian school. Were Noah a student anywhere else, I’d probably have had social services on my doorstep already. Noah arms make it look like he’s been boxing with a rattlesnake).
In the meantime, I’m going to troll eBay for a padded suit.