*This post is part of a series originally posted on my former blog, Stinker Babies. I’m reposting here for families who are interested in learning more about the process of being matched with a service dog for their children. This series was written during March of 2013.*
Because packing up everything, loading up the car, and taking our public access test wasn’t stressful enough, it took us 35 minutes to get to the mall because of a crazy traffic jam. We left Homewood at 11:30 to make the five-minute drive to the mall. Despite leaving a half hour early, we were five minutes late. I was seriously about to have a panic attack. I screeched to a stop right in front of the entrance that said Dick’s Sporting Goods and threw Jake and April out of the car. The kids and I parked and ran in. We did not end up in Dick’s like the sign said but just in front of the kiddie rides. That was fun. I half-dragged, half-carried the kids past the rides and up the stairs to the food court. We made it.
Jake did the public access test which was fantastic for me because my nerves were shot. April passed with flying colors. We headed back to 4 Paws where I sat down with Jennifer and went over all of our final paperwork. We got her official badge to go in her harness, her collar with all of her tags, and her medical history. We signed our contract and she was ours!
The graduation started and we each went around the room and tried to share our thoughts. Most of us ended up crying too hard to even get it all out. Each family was called to the front where we took a family photo in front of the graduation banner. Then we were handed our certificate. At the end, the kids got to “sign” the banner with their names and the names of their dogs.
It was a moment we’ve dreamed of for a very long time. It almost didn’t even feel real.
We then bid teary farewells to our new friends and got in the car and headed south. We made it to Corbin, Kentucky where we stopped for the night at the same hotel as my sister from another mister (college roomie) who was travelling north with her sweet family. It was wonderful to hug their necks and have breakfast with them the next morning before starting out on the rest of the drive home.
We drove 500 miles yesterday. It took us 12 hours. It was an especially trying day for Caleb who had quite a few meltdowns. I had a couple of my own. I literally cried a tear of joy when we crossed the Florida line (about 10 miles from our house). If I hadn’t been so crazed and desperate to get home, I would have stopped and taken a picture of us kissing the ground. Okay, maybe we wouldn’t go that far. But it was just so wonderful to be back home with the warm temperatures and the green. Oh everything is so beautiful and green! I absolutely loved our time in Ohio and it was beautiful there, too. But there’s no place like home! April seems to love her new home and has really enjoyed exploring it. She’s still getting used to our laminate floors, though, and has been sliding a bit. We took her over for a family Easter dinner and she enjoyed meeting my sister’s little dog, Jack. When we returned the rental car, we decided to leave her at home. We filled her “bong” (as Gracie calls the Kong…I’m sure that won’t raise any eyebrows) with peanut butter and turned on the TV music channel. When we got home, she was just chillin’ and listenin’ to some P.M. Dawn. Gotta love the 90s station!
It has been amazing to have April here. She has made such a huge difference already and I can’t imagine it without her now. A few of you future 4 Paws class members have asked me some great questions. Once I’ve had some time to reflect, I’ll compile a list of tips and tricks that we were given from previous members and also what we discovered to be helpful.
Thank you so much to all of you who followed our journey to bring April home. Some of you very loyal and wonderful people have been following this story since the whole Pepsi Pup fiasco. I so appreciate your support, your prayers, your encouragement, your shoulders to cry on and your cheers along the way. It has made all the difference and I am forever grateful!