October 6, 2010. Two days ago I received an email from the school district’s attorney, with a copy of the Hearing Officer’s decision attached. We won. Across the board, on all counts, and on all points. Even though we shouldn’t need the outside verification, its rather satisfying to read, all the same, that we aren’t nuts, or crazed parents, or unrealistically looking to our public school to provide Peter with a designer, top-of-the-line, private school caliber program. We were looking for the district to adhere to the requirements of state and federal law, and to respect our rights under the same, as parents. I can’t say the last three years of sparring with the school have been worth it, the manufactured abuse charges, the lies and cover-ups, the damage to our son’s fragile mind and bewildered heart, as well as the substantial collateral damage to our daughter, which we’re only now beginning fully to realize, but winning certainly helps. Regardless of whether the school district appeals, for us, its over. The day after tomorrow, Peter will start his new school, a program that will provide him one on one learning and life skills training within an intensive, neurocognitive rehabilitative framework. It’s a day that’s long overdue, but hopefully not too late. Lindy asked him yesterday whether he was excited about starting the new school. “I don’t want to go,” he replied. The next part is what made me heart skip and my eyes well. When she asks why not, his response was simple and matter-of-fact. “Cuz I want to stay home with Mommy.” Wow! How very far we’ve come, the two of us. Last night I looked back through my journal and reread some of the entries I wrote just a little over two years ago. Though I haven’t forgotten the all-encompassing sense of hopelessness, rage, and absolute chaos that daily life with Peter entailed, those worries no longer hold me captive. Never could I have imagined then that our son could ever feel, much less absorb, the love for him that I’ve fought so hard to first find and then instill. My words feel awkward today, I know, but I think its because my heart’s so full. Peter’s courage, his vivacity and plucky determination, have touched so many lives, and of course, transformed my own. Yesterday I received a call from a woman who lives about an hour south of us. She raises golden retrievers, has an autistic child, and has been following our story. Her dogs, which sell for about $1200, are bred specifically with mellow temperament and family companionship in mind. This complete stranger, out of the goodness of her heart, wants to give Peter one of her female pups. To top it off, the call came on the same day that I spoke to our vet about whether the time has come to say goodbye to our crotchety but cherished Jack Russell Terrier, Scout. At 15 ½, she’s deaf, incontinent, uncomfortable, and very disoriented. Her quality of life is diminishing quickly and I worry that we may be keeping her alive for selfish reasons. I don’t know when we’re going to bring her in – though it’ll likely be soon, and its something Pat and I are dreading. I also don’t know whether we’ll be able to bring the new pup into our home, despite how eerily fated, and connected, this chain of events feels. For me, the love and companionship that our pets provide outweighs, several times over, the undeniable labor involved. I’m a true animal lover, and though it may sound silly, or perhaps even juvenile, the very presence of our pets shores me up, helps me feel less homesick when those moments come, less alone, more needed, and yes, more unconditionally loved. But I don’t think Pat feels the same, and I can’t much fault him. We have so much on our plates, and for him a puppy means work (which it is), added stress, and everything else that goes with the territory. But still, even if we end up declining this incredibly generous, almost fortuitous offer, I’m grateful beyond description. The fact that Peter, and his story, have touched so many lives gives me hope, real hope, that we’ll be able to heal the hurt that’s been hidden so deep inside Sophie, a hurt that’s only now beginning to surface, and one we only barely understand. Our cherished little girl has the tenacity, stubbornness, and the agile mind of a Jack Russell Terrier. In fact, Pat and I often joke that she and Scout must be biologically related. She has all the right stuff, and so I have to believe in my heart that she can overcome these troubles. As I quietly relish our victory over the school, all the while preparing for Scout’s farewell, Peter’s new school experience, and Sophie’s worrisome struggles, I reflect on how far we’ve come, as individuals and as a family. I hope love continues to blossom in our home, despite setbacks and emerging issues, or the inevitable loss, now and then, of one of our much-loved furry friends.