Golden Therapy

     Trisha was a member of our family for a year before we adopted Cody, our Golden Retriever. She was dismissed from the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at a local hospital to our home, as our foster baby. She has spina bifida, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, apnea, sensory integration deficit, rhombencephalo-synapsis, to name a few of her medical problems. After she was a member of our family for seven months we knew that she was indeed our daughter. That is when we knew we needed to file to adopt her. Cody, our Golden, joined our family a year to the date that Trisha did, his official adoption actually happened before hers did. Whether her adoption was finalized or not, however, she was our daughter and we wanted what was best for her.
     My husband, Bill had heard about how animals can often help children who have medical problems and physical delays similar our daughter’s. He suggested that we get a puppy. With all that is involved in taking care of Trisha, however, I knew that a puppy would not be the best choice for our family. Instead, I began to think of adopting an older, more mature dog.
     An Internet search led me to Heartland Golden Retriever Rescue. I contacted them and told them why we were looking for a Golden Retriever. They very carefully considered the Goldens they had at that time, and then recommended Cody for the huge job we had in mind for him. We met at the local park to be introduced to Cody. I took Trisha’s wheelchair out of the van and loaded it down with all of its equipment. Then I put Trisha in the wheelchair and took Cody for a walk. We were pleased to see that her wheelchair did not intimidate Cody at all. In fact, if you just happened to be walking by us that day you would have thought he walked next to her wheelchair all the time.
     When I decided that Cody was the Golden we were looking for, I cleaned out the back seat of our van for him. There was very little room in the seat next to Trisha. Despite the cramped conditions he did not even consider the back seat. He climbed right in next to Trisha and gently put his head in her lap.
     Cody immediately knew there was something special about Trisha, and has appointed himself her guardian angel ever since. He sleeps in Trisha’s room, and goes to bed when Trisha does, even though he does not have to. He sleeps on his bed in her room until I give Trisha her last meds for the day and shut the door. He then immediately stations himself in front of her door. No one is going to get into her room without Cody knowing it. If one of her alarms goes off during the night, he is up pacing in the room until I get there to stimulate her to breathe again. When someone he is not sure about comes into our home, he positions himself between Trisha and the newcomer. Nothing threatening at all: he just makes his presence known. Though Trisha is much more willing to allow her therapists to work with her than before Cody came into the picture, she still complains about the hard work from time to time. Trisha’s therapists work with her in our living room. In order for them to have a successful session we have to put Cody into Trisha’s room. If we do not, he will try his best to position himself between the therapist and Trisha. If Trisha is in the hospital for any reason it is next to impossible to get Cody to come out of their room.
     As a result of the many medical procedures that Trisha has had since the day she was born she is very hypersensitive to anyone or thing touching her hands, face, head, and arms. Within a few weeks of Cody joining our family, he had bridged that hypersensitivity. She so enjoys her Cody kisses and runs her hands through his fur without a second thought. This has all been very instrumental in her relaxing while having therapy. Cody continues to be there to help Trisha through her hypersensitivity problems. With Cody’s help Trisha has mastered many things that the doctors said she would NEVER do, such as playing midline (patty-a-cake), blowing kisses, getting herself into a seated position (we were told she would never sit up), and rolling over to get to a toy she wants. In the pictures you can see the progress Trisha has made with the help of her favorite therapist, Cody. We look forward to the many accomplishments that are still in the future for her, with Cody’s help and encouragement.
     I know without a shadow of a doubt Trisha would not be where she is today if it were not for Cody. Adopting Cody was a great decision for our family, especially Trisha. We could not be more thrilled with the pure Gold addition to our family.   

Entry written by Lori Heavilin of Oak Ridge, TN
* Third Place Award Recipient

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