It is the stuff of urban myth that makes out people with autism love dogs. I bought a puppy on the strength of this hoping he might prove to be a calming influence and a playmate. During our first month together it has been absolute anarchy. Charlie has developed a bit of a vocal tick, clearing his throat when stress levels are high. Floyd, as Charlie has christened him, antagonizes Charlie in running away with his toys like a thief. Charlie in the full fury of flight behind him screaming and shouting. And the dog barks back. He has already swallowed the lungs from Charlie’s human body model and chewed his prize collection of Mr Men books. Darth Floyd loves a battle and sometimes the only contact I can see is between Charlie’s light saber and Floyd’s teeth. Not quite what I had in mind. They scrap and trip each other up but slowly I’m hoping a friendship will out because there are times when I see them sitting next to each other or Charlie sticking up for Floyd when I tell him off for whizzing on the floor again.
Christmas too adds to stress levels. It is a delicate time of year for Charlie. Full of too much fuss, tinsel and people. It all lasts a little too long for him. Mistrustful of the man in the red suit and carolling yet delighting in snowmen, baubles, lights and presents. Christmas dinner saw Charlie refusing to sit with us all, taking his turkey dinner and lone cracker into another room leaving Floyd shagging his blanket in front of the guests in a bid for dominance over something……anything. Poor Uncle Peter. All he wanted was a slice of turkey.
Whilst I can imagine a better position for us to be in I sat content as the year closed, grateful to be able to stroke Floyd on my lap and hear the soft snore coming from Charlie who had finally given into sleep. This time last New Year’s Eve we had just arrived home from another hospital stay. A bald-headed, grey faced Charlie was weak, skeletal and couldn’t walk. Last year was the year he recovered and came to terms with the cancer he has had. It was also the year it became more apparent to him that his autism makes him slightly different to many people. I should have a heavy heart and sometimes I do. But looking forward as ever, I sit on the pulse of another new year thinking if he can do that, what can he achieve this coming year? I have high hopes. We may live in the shadow of a wrecking ball but sometimes the only defence lies in refusing to let that affect the here and now. A few lines from one of my favourite poems for this time of year says it better than I ever can.
“Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And say simply
Maya Angelou “On The Pulse Of Morning”