Monday, August 23, 2010

Mia has news for you, she has been placed...

We are excited and happy to report that a match has been made with a recipient for Mia! All of a sudden we received the news that she will live and work with a teenage girl with a disability, quadriplegia. After the first moment of disbelief and a myriad of emotions, we realized Mia would be going to school, which made us really happy both for Mia and for her recipient. Mia is a social girl, as we have told you, and she will love it. This also means there are things she needs to work on that relate to a school environment and the needs of a student in a wheelchair.

So off Bonnie went with dog and wheelchair to the local junior high where our kids have gone. After a check in with the principal, we were welcome to train in the school. Today was our second trip to school and we worked on many things. The front doors were the first, working on position, switch and not being distracted by things on the floor. Trips down the long halls went well with some reminders about position, avoiding a toothpick on the floor, and the drips from a leak in the ceiling. We tried the heavy doors to the staff rest rooms and she amazingly opened them after a couple of tries. Bonnie had to learn how to block the door and then have Mia step over her feet to go ahead. We tried the elevator to the lower level. There was only one button outside which Mia knew to push with the "switch" command. Then remembering to have Mia on the side of the wheelchair away from the door and using "go ahead" and "around", we entered and exited as we have been taught. Lastly we did "retrieve", trying some objects a teenager might have; a marker, a cellphone, a package of kleenex and as a challenge object, a student ID card. Mia seems to enjoy working hard and being challenged. For us graduation in October will come before we know it.

Here's Mia napping this morning. We were trying to show how much she likes the bucket of balls, but there was no interfering with her after breakfast nap!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mia has a busy social life...

Mia has been going to Linda's and also to Lonnie's house while we are getting our young adult children to and from their colleges, and most recently for Laura (our daughter) and Kyle's wedding. We are so appreciative for the help they give us by dog sitting. Mia gets to work with other people and meet their dogs this way, which helps her learn to be more flexible with new people, for example, when she goes to meet applicants who might become her owner.

We had no idea life would be so full of change for us when we volunteered to be a foster family for Mia. In the past three months Laura and Kyle moved to Texas, and Michael and Sarah have come from their colleges, Michael went back to Madison this weekend, and soon Sarah will move to Madrid, Spain. Also, in the last two years three of our four parents have passed away, so the photos of them in earlier blog notes are especially sweet memories of our time with Mia. All of this has required Mia to be extremely flexible and patient, which we hope will help her in her future work.

On a lighter note, imagine our surprise when we uploaded from our camera and found a series of photos of Mia playing with our cleaning ladie's son. Adorable! Mia loves company at home, and this was just another fantastic fun day for her. I would show you more, but didn't ask permission to show the little boy that just loves her (and Mia loves him, too).

If you haven't seen the latest newsletter from Helping Paws, you should know you can read about all the dogs in the newsletter on the Helping Paws website. Mia's section in the newsletter is as follows...

Sometimes it’s hard to believe all the things Mia has learned and how responsible she has become. If we are not careful we focus on what we still want her to perfect when we should be celebrating her progress. In two years she has become incredibly connected to us and communicates in ways that continue to amaze us. Besides her commands she understands other words like “outside” and knows that a shimmy will always get our attention. Even as her skills improve, we continue to raise our expectations.

Mia has been exposed to lots of new experiences. She was a fine greeter for the Wag Walk and Run, as you can see from the photo. She traveled to Madison and helped our son move out of the dorm. (Think messy and smelly.) Then on to Iowa City for our daughter’s Master’s Degree ceremony, which she handled beautifully, including the horns and whistles plus a large crowd. She was quiet through a church service of several thousand at the convention center, and later that day attended a parade down Hennepin Avenue, still on her best behavior.

She traveled to the North Shore for a cabin weekend with a great day of jumping and swimming from the dock. Unfortunately she had painful “swimmer’s tail” the next day and fortunately we had been educated about this by Helping Paws, so we knew it would heal in a few days. No need for an emergency trip to the vet!

All these experiences have shown us Mia is getting ready to match with her life’s partner and new best friend!