Sunday, August 19, 2018

You Might be an Autism Parent If...

You might be an Autism Parent If...

1. Your child has no problem putting together a 500 piece LEGO set, but tying his shoes is a challenge.

2. Your child is a Star Wars trivia master, but naming all 12 months of the year in order is difficult.

3. Your child can hold more than 20 pieces of music in his head, but he can't remember if he fed his gerbils.

4. Your child can play complicated music by John Williams on his keyboard, but printing out his first and last name takes real effort.

This month Action for Autism St. Louis will be celebrating a decade of serving St. Louis families with their annual Family Fun Walk. Our family has been supported by this wonderful group since it's inception. This past summer AFA helped us bridge the often difficult time between school and summer break by sending Noah to two different summer programs -- 1. an intensive 2 week, academic boot camp which he actually loved. He and one other student received one-on-one instruction in reading support and math skills. The teacher found creative ways to reinforce math concepts through cooking. He also took part in a group sports class that focused on social skills and being a good sport.

As a recipient of Action for Autism support, it is an honor to help them generate pledges to help more children and their families who are affected by Autism.  If you can, please make a tax deductible donation to Action for Autism. Click this link and scroll all the way to the bottom of the page. There are three fields to complete. Please put our last name - FELGENHAUER - in the donation notes field. Or, message me privately to make arrangements.

Thanks so much!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Hope Floats...and Sometimes Wags

"Mom, I found this paper. I don't know where it came from," said Noah.

I took one look and immediately knew he wrote son who loathes writing, sat down and painstakingly penned a letter on Truvy's behalf.

While his penmanship may lead many to have preconceived notions of his abilities. I see his creativity and know his brain is strong even if his fingers aren't.

His creativity again shines through.

Truvy isn't even living with us yet, but already she is making a difference.

Hope floats...and sometimes wags.

Dear Felgenhauers,
I am excited to meet you.
I am a good girl.
I hope that you will play, walk and feed me.

See you in...well...home!
From: Truvy

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Tru Love

I always knew I wanted to be a mother. When Steve and I found out we were pregnant with Noah I read books like What to Expect When You're Expecting. We participated in child birth classes. I took prenatal vitamins and baby gear took over much of the space in our home. I was so thankful we had nine months to prepare.

I never dreamed I'd be doing much of the same things (maybe even more) to prepare for a puppy.

Actually, I never thought our family would ever own a dog.

In December after years of dealing with allergies and asthma, nebulizers, inhalers and steroids, I decided to revisit allergy shots and find out if it was even an option for me. Turns out I'm allergic to everything outdoors (trees, grass, mold, hay, ragweed, dust, pollen) and anything with fur from hamsters to horses. My allergist was optimistic and believed I was a candidate for rush immunotherapy. I began treatment almost immediately and received six months worth of shots in a four hour period -- within 6 months (100 + shots) I was on a maintenance program -- shots just once a month.

My shortness of breath disappeared. Itchy, watery eyes and sneezing fits every time I walked outside or came within three feet of something furry -- gone.

I began researching dogs - breeds, size, temperament, breeders, rescues. I read books including  Before and After Getting Your Puppy, Idiot's Guide: Puppies and The Puppy Bible. For fun I read books with a dog theme - Where the Red Fern Grows and The Art of Racing in the Rain.

After much consideration we settled on Cedar Hill Labradoodles. Theresa and her husband have been raising labradoodles for 14 years. In all my research I've not come across another breeder as kind, smart and thorough as Cedar Hill. All of their dogs are genetically health tested. They have a guardian home/host home program for breeding. This allows them to breed great dogs, but the dogs chosen for the program live their lives with their family and dams have a maximum of three litters. They provide a three year health guarantee. Pups listen to a CD called "Calm Puppy" to expose and desensitize them to unusual sounds like a vacuum cleaner. All of their pups receive early neurological stimulation beginning at three days of life. In addition to regular socializing they use the "Rules of Seven" which claim by the time a puppy is seven weeks old he/she should have:
1. Been on 7 different surfaces
2. Played with 7 different types of objects
3. Been in 7 different locations
4. Been exposed to 7 physical challenges
5. Eaten from 7 different containers
6. Eaten in 7 different locations
7. Met and played with 7 new people

Fast forward to June, our family learned our fur-baby mama, Daisy, had successfully delivered seven, healthy doodles...Double Doodles - part labradoodle and part goldendoodle also known as North American Retrievers. Theresa immediately set up a puppy cam. For the past six weeks we have been tuning in to her live puppy cam to watch them grow and develop.

Last Saturday we traveled to Delwood, a tiny town in Illinois. We spent two hours visiting with Theresa and her pups. As she brought them into the room two at a time, I agonized as to how we would choose just one. Prior to our arrival I thought I knew which one was best, but seeing them explore and nuzzle and watching their curly, turned up tails wag -- I was smitten with every one of them!

Even though we'd been on a list since late December, we were second for the pick, however, we were mainly interested in a female, and the family ahead of us wanted a male. I asked Theresa to remove the three boys from the room so we could focus our attention on the girls -- 4 of them. They sniffed and explored their new surroundings...sometimes stopping for a pat.

"Theresa you've been watching them, is there one that seems to be a better fit for our family than the others?"

"Not really. I don't think you can go wrong with any of them and they will all have soft, fluffy, low shed coats."

"This is so hard. How will we ever decide?" I moaned.

Lime (collar) placed her front paws on my lap as I patted her head.

"Oh wow, look at them," I said as I admired the beautiful caramel colored coats of Orange and Pink.

All around us pups sniffed and explored -- some carried off small stuff toys while others tackled each other.

As I talked to Natalie about the difficulty of our situation. I noticed Lime watching us. Her little head swiveling left to right as if she were truly listening to our conversation.

"Oh, look at Yellow, her coat is more beautiful in person. This is going to be impossible." I shared.

Lime came over to me and sat directly in my lap.

"Now which one is Orange and which is Pink?" I asked, (referring to the twin caramel-colored pups) "They are so beautiful and sweet." As Theresa shared their differences in coat markings I agonized about which pup we would take home with us.

Lime walked over and sat in my lap again.

"This is impossible. They are all so wonderful."

At this point the pups began winding down and laid down to rest. Orange and Pink laid together while Yellow found a spot on the blanket. Lime headed over to Natalie to put her head in Nat's outstretched hand.

We sat on the floor and talked to Theresa about her dogs and asked her if it would be possible to meet the parents, Daisy and Denver while we mulled over our possibilities. As we talked the pups began to stir and Lime headed over to the paper to do her business. We praised her and marveled how awesome she was doing with paper training at the tender age of only five weeks.

Theresa took the pups back to the nursery and brought out Daisy and later Denver. Both dogs were sweet, gentle and adorable.

"Steve,"...I started.

"I think it's pretty obvious," said Steve.

"I know! What was I waiting for?...the pup to bring out a sign that said 'take me'?"

Poor Lime, she worked so hard. She was engaging and sweet. She did everything she could to make it abundantly clear she was interested in us. Finally she had to pull out the big guns (so to speak) to help her stand out from the rest.

I think I knew from the first time she looked in my eyes. Hers were the only ones in the litter to actually seem to be looking back at me. I know it may sound silly, but I truly felt like there was a little soul in there.

I believe my hesitation at making a decision...any decision hinged on the fact I am nervous about bringing home a pup. More nervous than I ever was with bringing home my own babies.


Because I know Natalie has wanted a dog since she could talk and I want her to have the very best experience.

Because I hope our pup will be a sort of healing balm for our family. The past six months have been extremely taxing and hard for Noah. Teen + autism = hard to the nth degree.  He's really struggling with social groups and I hope our pup will be able to help him bridge the gaps and make friends while serving as a constant companion.

We've decided to call her Truvy...Truvy Anne.  Truvy is derivative of Gertrude. A German name and  fitting as we are of German descent. Truvy is also the name of one of my favorite characters in Steel Magnolias. Her middle name Anne comes from two of Natalie's favorite characters -- Little Ann in Where the Red Fern Grows and Anne from Anne of Green Gables.