Our son, Johnny, was born with severe Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy. He cannot breathe on his own, cannot eat by mouth, has no control over his extremities and only communicates with facial expressions. He must be flat on his back most of the time, which limits the life experiences that typical developing children have.
It dawned on me that most kids want a pet, so we sought a companion for Johnny among rescue dogs since Johnny taught us to be nonjudgmental.
Lexi is a Golden Retriever rescued from Golden Beginnings. Being found severely underweight and neglected, the amazing volunteers got her healthy, and we brought Lexi to her “furever” home.
She charged into our house smelling new smells and checking things out. When she found Johnny in his bed, she went from hyper to caretaker. She gingerly stepped onto his bed, lay down beside him and instinctively put her head on his shoulder.
We were astounded; we did not have to tell her to be gentle or nice. Lexi knew there was something special about “her” boy and that was the beginning of their special bond.
At first, she took naps and watched TV with him every day, making his face light up, which was something we had rarely seen before she came into our lives. During the school year, when the teacher comes to visit, Lexi always sits with Johnny, paying attention for the two-hour session.
Our little boy loves to watch sports and probably dreams of going outside to play. I’m sure Lexi partially fulfills that dream. They both get excited when they play fetch inside. She brings her tennis balls and gently places one near Johnny’s hand. I throw it. She fetches it but brings it back to Johnny, not me. She piles her toys on his bed until someone assists Johnny with a game of tug-of-war or fetch with her. Such is the unspoken friendship and communication between them.
Johnny must endure painful therapy sessions daily, and the only way he makes it through without crying is by petting Lexi, his constant companion. Resting his hand on her fur, he relaxes, making stretching less painful.
As parents of this precious little boy, it is heartbreaking he has no siblings to play with, friends to interact with and no true connection to anyone other than his parents. Lexi enhanced his life by giving him the gift of a special friendship, for they share an unconditional love and understanding for each other that does not need words. She makes him laugh always lifting his spirits. Lexi instinctively knew our son needed a best friend to make him happy, just as she, and so many other special dogs, need a forever pal too.
We’ve stayed in touch with Johnny’s family and received some exciting updates from his mother, Katherine! We are thrilled to see how Johnny and Lexi’s relationship continues to grow stronger each year! Read below to learn more about Johnny’s progress.
Johnny’s Reading Club: After hearing about Lexi and Johnny’s friendship, a volunteer from Golden Beginnings Golden Retriever Rescue decided that they should add a few new friends to their group! Along with Johnny’s mother, Katherine, they created Johnny’s Reading Club, a group of children that come to the house and read out loud to Johnny and Lexi. Katherine said the reading club “benefits the ‘guest child’ because they get to practice reading aloud to Lexi and Johnny with no judgement. Johnny benefits because he finally gets to be around kids–something he’s rarely done. Everyone loves it and I’ve had kids repeatedly ask their parents ‘when do we get to go back and see Johnny and Lexi again?’…the kids pile onto Johnny’s bed and read, laugh, pet Lexi and a great time is had by all.”
Communication Device: After 6 years of trying to obtain a communication device for Johnny, the family succeeded! It looks like a computer, calibrates his pupils, and he can look at it and it speaks for him. The family does the programming so it is personalized to Johnny’s life and activities. Lexi has her own page-including every detail about her, where we adopted her from, what she likes, and a long list of commands that Johnny can use to communicate with her. Johnny can call Lexi and she responds to her name. To her, the computer’s voice is Johnny’s voice. He can tell her to bring her tennis ball (or any other specific toy), tell her to get on his bed, ask if she can cuddle with him, he can tell her to stop licking his hand, to “show belly” so she can get a belly rub, and the list goes on. It took one time and some treats for Lexi to get used to the device. But now, when the device comes out Lexi starts to literally prance around and gets very excited. As a dog mom, Katherine says this is her favorite part.
Each year, the Petco Love invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Katherine Scardasis won Golden Beginnings Golden Retriever Rescue of Houston in Houston, Texas a 2016 Holiday Wishes award.