Saturday, 10 March 2012

A Boy's Best Friend

Playing with Atlas
We have quite the menagerie at our house. At the beginning of my pregnancy with Felix, we had 4 cats, 3 green tree frogs and 3 bearded dragons. Add the pile of kids and any friends they had over and it could resemble a small zoo at any given time.

At about 12 weeks pregnant, my husband decided that it might be a nice idea to get a puppy for the baby to grow up with. The older kids had a dog when they were younger and loved her so we knew that they would be excited about the idea as well. Hubby had his heart set on getting an American Staffy so we started looking through online ads and at breeders. The plan was to get one just after the baby was born.

Being gentle with Brutus
When, at 19 weeks pregnant, we were told that Felix looked like he would have Down Syndrome, we were even more set on the idea of getting a dog. We knew that he would be able to learn so much from playing and interacting with a puppy and the puppy would love and protect him.

Five weeks later was when our world came crashing down. We were told that Felix had hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) and would be lucky to survive the pregnancy. All our dreams for our baby came crashing down. We couldn't bring ourselves to buy any baby stuff. I would sit in the baby's empty room with the fluffy toy rabbit that my husband had bought early in my pregnancy and cry.

My husband and I were sitting in bed one night, both feeling very emotionally drained and teary. He put his hand on my belly and Felix was kicking away like crazy as he always did. My husband said, "I want to get the puppy now! I want him to have a chance to get to know Felix while you're still pregnant in case he doesn't survive. He's going to be his puppy so he needs a chance to get to know him."  I thought that was beautiful. Like most men, my husband isn't the emotional type so when he said that with tears in his eyes, I started crying all over again.

Good Morning kisses for his best friend, Chaos
Two weeks later, we bought our 8 week old Staffy, Chaos. He would curl up next to my big belly to sleep and Felix would kick him. We would talk to Felix and tell him all about the puppy and what he was doing. Those were some very special times as week after week went by and Felix was still alive and still as active as ever. It was too soon to get excited, but we dared to hope.

Fast forward to now. Our little miracle is 17 months old and incredibly healthy. He LOVES Chaos and they share a very special bond. Every morning Felix crawls over to Chaos on his bed to wake him up and say Good Morning! Chaos, who can be just as his name describes, is so gentle with Felix and it is beautiful to watch them interact.

Trying not to scare Envy
Having animals around has been fantastic for Felix's development. He has had to learn the word 'gentle' and what that means in relation to animals. He will pat them and make an "Aaaaah" sound. The pets have encouraged him to get moving. Even before he could crawl he would drag himself across the floor to touch one of the cats or to look out into the yard at the dogs. He 'shouts' at the dogs if he hears them bark and learned to sign 'dog' and 'cat' very early on. Even during a breastfeed, if he hears the dogs he will frantically sign 'dog' (without stopping his drink). He's also learning a lot about hand washing and how it is not acceptable to Mummy to feed the dog your from your high chair.

Peek A Boo with Brutus
Recently he has started to play peek-a-boo with the pets. He will duck his head down under Chaos's bed, then lift his head up or do the same with one of the cats from behind his high chair. It is so cute to watch!

I would encourage anyone with a child with Down Syndrome to get a pet of some kind. I've been amazed at some of the things Felix has already learned from having them and am looking forward to the day when he can learn to feed them and join us when we walk the dogs as well. Just don't be as soft as me; I agreed to having ONE dog and now we have four! Never a dull moment around our house :)

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