Category Archives: News

Canine Companions for Independence

My son received his first dog when he was about 10 or 11.  It changed our life for the better.  Tarella was with him for many years and he now has his second dog Lee.  Tarella lived a very long and happy life and recently passed away.  Here is a repost of my message saying goodbye.

Tarella – A special tail – Saying goodbye

There is nothing more clear and direct than the love of a dog. Tarella lifted the hearts of everyone she met from the time she was with her teenage puppy raiser, through her journey with Don, to her retirement with Don’s Dad and Lisa. She was always happy, always connecting with people, and everyone could feel it.

I remember arriving home from the team training at Canine Companions and letting her loose in our house for the first time. Two weeks of intensive human training (she was already an expert) had showed us what a professional she was – always eager to understand what she needed to do and thrilled to work. We didn’t realize there was switch, a button to trigger, and that exuberance would be let loose in our house with the simple word ‘release”. We were wide eyed as we watched her bound around indoors and outdoors and life was never the same again.

During our time living together, myself, Jamie, Don and Tarella, we trained more and more skills. I think she had close to 100 commands. She could take off Don’s sox and jeans, put them in the laundry, and run the wash – oops not that last one. But the “sock” command and “laundry” command were a couple of her favorites. One night she went into action a little pre-emptively. I turned around just in time to see Don airborne as she jerked so hard on his jeans that he sailed through the air and landed on the ground. We fell all over ourselves laughing. I’ll never forget sitting at opposite ends of the house teaching her to bring things to each of us. “Go to Mom”….”HERE Tarella!” and I could hear the toenails as she ran through the hallways tracking me down to deliver the pencil unmarked and with just a tiny bit of spit. We knew she wasn’t always angelic, Jamie’s hair ties and stuffed animals paid the price, but she was our angel. She brought us together, brought us into the amazing group of people that make up Canine Companions for Independence, and was there for Don every minute of school, rest, illness, hardship and joy. Life was hugely improved having her alongside him.

Don’s goal was to have permission to be completely independent – to not need any supervision with Tarella. He was one of the only CCI recipients to ever go back in and UPGrADE his dog’s classification. They proudly graduated with full service honors when he was old enough to qualify. It was a testament to their connection and his dedication to keeping her training high level.

It was very tough for Don to decide Tarella was ready to retire. She’d taken to letting him know she clocked out at 5pm, but he could work with that…it was the fears that came with losing her hearing and eyesight that made it time. Riding in the van was no longer a treat, it was something that made her shake with terror no matter how we tried to make it ok. We even fed her dinner as we were driving. Nothing helped. So, Don petitioned to CCI for a second service dog and prepared a retirement home for Tarella with his Dad. There was a brief glitch when she came back to him again, then he graduated with his second dog, Lee. A few years ago she settled in to retired life with Jim and Lisa. When they bought a vacation place by the lake (where Jim spends most of his time fishing) she fit right in. I heard stories of her riding on the golf cart and running through the woods. She had the prefect doggy retirement. Lots of love and fun. When ever Don would come around she’d position herself right next to his wheelchair. If Lee was there she’d just take the other side. He had bookends. But she was just as happy in retirement to grab her favorite stuffed toy and settle on the bed by the fireplace as he left.

Their last walk together. She’s wearing Lee’s vest on an overnight at my place.

I was the back-up caretaker person. When we had weekends together Tarella came to me all shampooed (and shedding) and I gave her lots of ABM lessons (body work that upgraded her brain body connection). We continued to bond with long walks that now involved lots of sniffing instead of trotting along at high speed beside the wheelchair. One visit she came to me listing to the side because of a mini-stroke. We worked all weekend and she went back home back in balance again and able to climb stairs and be comfy. Steady exercise, high quality diet, EFAs, short toenails, and her own ABM practitioner- the secrets to a long and healthy life.

Jamie said we should have taught Tarella sign language before she went deaf. She’d look at people speaking to her and try to guess what they were saying. From out side the car Jamie would dance around gesturing wildly for Tarella to lie down on the car seat and wait patiently for us to come out of the store. Tarella got it. I’m not sure who trained who on that one…. Some said the hearing and vision issues seemed to be pretty selective. Oh well, she was entitled. She worked for 11 years and earned lots of perks in retirement.

Throughout it all she was a joyful happy soul. She changed all of our lives for the better. Yesterday I got the call. She was gone. Tarella will be missed by everyone who knew her. Her name in the aborigine language of Australia….journey’s end.

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Traveling for work

It’s been such a pleasure to meet so many families and children.  I am endlessly impressed   with the dedication parents have for finding solutions for their children with special needs.  I remember being told that I should just go along with what the teachers and other professionals were telling me was best for my child. I even recall a doctor telling me not to listen to anyone with “new” ideas because they were just preying on parents with special needs children.  The message they were sending, “There is no hope”, was one I was not willing to hear. They wanted me to believe that they had the answers and my son could achieve nothing more than their predictions.  Well, I am so fortunate that I also had people with vision, intelligence, and love giving me concrete ideas to make a difference for my child.  It was my job to keep searching, to follow through, to be his advocate and educate myself about what my son needed in his life.  

The parents who find solutions outside the mainstream are those who are not willing to settle.  They are questioning and searching for new or more effective options.  If no one ever did, there would be no new discoveries and no better solutions.  No wonder it is such a pleasure to meet these proactive, intelligent parents.  I feel quite fortunate to have the opportunity.

This year I travelled to Copenhagen, London, and Saipan multiple times.  When a family has hosted my visit, gathering 2 or 3 more interested parents to share the costs, I am able to show and speak locally about how neuromovement (ABM, Feldenrkais, Relfex) can help special needs children.  Word spreads quickly and I never have spare time to explore the sights.  It’s not a tough choice to make because my memories of the kids learning and growing and the parents so open to learning is so satisfying.   There are requests for longer visits, and waiting lists getting longer and longer.  Maybe some day I’ll be able to add some extra days to relax and enjoy – but you know what?  There is a good chance they will get filled with giving more lessons.

I’ve  worked in these locations with about 25 children.  4 charming kids with Autism or Autism Spectrum, 6 children with Cerebral Palsy, 2 with hemiplegia from stroke or other causes, and many other conditions.  Along the way I’ve added on lessons for a professional bowler, an elite tennis player, an adult relative with stroke, 2 pregnant mom’s, and 2 infant siblings who received well baby lessons.  So much interest has developed in Denmark with families with special needs children that there is now a Scandinavian Neuro Movement Center organized to make more opportunities available to the families in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.  I’m thrilled to be a part of what is developing.

My experiences in life have brought me to this point.  I am able to do what I do because I raised a brilliant young man with cerebral palsy, because of my time in the medical nursing field, because of my Feldenkrais practitioner training with Anat Baniel, the 2 year advanced baby seminar that we begged her to teach, and all the years supporting the growth of the Anat Baniel Method.  I took classes with Dr. Masgutova, and I constantly learn from my colleagues like Marcy Lindheimer, Suzi Marks, and Syvlia Shordike.  

I look forward to more travels to new locations meeting families and children and being able to make a difference in their lives.  I am a very fortunate person to be able do what I love to be doing.  

 

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Sleepless?

I’m posting this here because many children with special needs have greater difficulty in calming themselves and quieting their brain enough to sleep. This article has some good resources for helping children learn to settle their own systems and get to sleep on their own. Annie Tucker Morgan references Richard Ferber, the director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital in Boston. 

One of the benefits of ABM that parents most often report is having their children start to sleep through the night even after just one lesson.

See website here:
http://www.divinecaroline.com/22108/86906-rock-a-bye-baby–sleep-training-work- 

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