HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO OUR DOG, NILES


Seven years ago today, the family went to an Autism Awareness Carnival that had been put together by a local parent's group.

There were a few rides, face painting, a real fire engine, balloon animals, the local high school marching band, and free food. But there were also booths set up to provide information on autism and products for autistic children. We tried to spend what time we could getting some information, but when you have three kids and a carnival with rides, well... you do the math.

At one point, Simon (my son) and Karen (my wife) had gone off on their own because Simon had gotten bored. Simon (who was 8 at the time) has Autism. He's the reason we had gone that day. Back then, while he could get super focused and spend hours and hours on one task, he could also get bored and impatient very easily. He's overcome that, and quite a lot more, since then, but he still has him moments.

After a while, when they hadn't come back, I'd left the girls (Ronna and Palin) with their grandparents, and then set out to look for my wife and the Boy.

I found them both crouched down in an open air tent. Simon was in front of Karen, and both had their backs to me. As I approached, Karen turned to me and I could see tears in her eyes. That was when I noticed that Simon was petting this little, white dog. At that point Karen had leaned into me and said:

"We have to adopt this dog. Look at your son."

At the time, Simon had really been interested in dogs, still is. But it always took him a while to warm up to them. Excitable dogs could easily scare the Boy away, but the dog he met that day had been calm. It had just laid there, sweet as can be and let Simon pet it. Simon, to his credit, had been very gentle.

It turned out that the tent had set up by the Humane Society. They were there to show off some of the dogs they had up for adoption. Simon and Karen were walking by and he had wanted to see the dogs. And apparently he walked straight over to this one particular dog, a Lhasa Apso, and sat down with it and just petted and stroked him and talked to him and was just generally sweet and precious.

Karen then asked for the dog's name and she was told that his name is Niles.

It was at this point that Karen, who has always said she never wanted another pet in the house, much less a dog, realized that she had fallen in love with Niles just as much as Simon had, and so decided then and there that we were going to get a dog.

Now, I should explain. I'm not good with sudden changes in routine. I've never been tested myself, but I see a lot of similarities of myself in Simon. I don't know if I'm on the spectrum, but I'm fairly certain I am. But this isn't about me. I only put that here to explain how I was feeling at that moment.

Here we were, a family without a dog. That was the routine. And it have been the routine for 8 years. And then suddenly, I had to wrap my mind around the idea of a drastic change.

But, I could what Karen was seeing. How could I say no?

And so. We got a dog.

We weren't able to do anything there at the carnival, however. We had to go to the Humane Society itself.

So, Simon and I drove to the Humane Society while Karen and the girl's stayed with the grandparents at the carnival. The girls had stuff they wanted to do and then they would follow along behind and meet us there.

As I drove through town, the Boy in the back seat, I said to him:

"Did you ever think when you got up this morning that you'd have a dog by the end of the day?"

"No," he said. Then he thought or a moment. "Wait a minute. Is this a dream, Dad? Am I dreaming right now?"

I smiled.

"Nope, you are not dreaming."

"Whoo-hoo!" He yelled from the back seat. "I'm getting a dog!"

That night, after we were home and Niles had explored the house as much as he could, after we got the girls into bed, we went into Simon's room to put the Boy to bed.

Niles followed.

Simon stopped off to use the restroom while Niles and I waited in Simon's room. Niles, without any prompting, jumped up onto Simon's bed and curled up for the night.

Simon and Karen arrived to find Niles snuggled up on Simon's bed.

"Do you think you're going to be okay sleeping with Niles on the bed tonight?" I asked Simon.

"Oh yeah," he said, and crawled into bed.

We said prayers, said good night, shut out his light, and then went to bed ourselves.

Niles stayed on Simon's bed the entire night.


And so, here we are, seven years later, celebrating the anniversary of bringing Niles into our home.

We'd learned that day that Niles had originally been owned by a breeder and had somehow gotten out. The Humane Society scooped him up, then, doing what they do, neutered him. When his owner came to pick him up they were furious that Niles had been fixed. The dog was no good to them anymore. So, they left him there.

Not long after that Niles had been adopted by a military couple. They had had him for a few months or so and had to bring him back when they both got word that they were being deployed over seas.

Then we got him.

I can admit that I wasn't all that excited to have a dog at the time. The moment Karen told me that we had to adopt Niles, all I could think about was the cost associated with owning a dog. Food, grooming, veterinarian bills, there goes more money out the door. Still, I agreed.

The worry remained, however. But then, well, it took about three minutes with Niles and he won me over.

I have to give credit to the couple that had him before us. They treated him well and had him potty trained and everything.

Niles can sense when anyone in the house is sad or feeling sick. We know this because he will come right to you and snuggle up next to you. He really is just the sweetest dog in the world. That's not hyperbole. Nile is the single greatest dog in the entire world.

He communicates with us as well. If he needs to go out, he will sit down in front of me and stare up at me. I'll ask: "Do you need to go outside and go potty?"

He will respond by getting up on his hind legs and placing his front paws on me. That's his way of saying: "Yes, please man, yes! Take me outside!"

He's a real chill dog too. He doesn't like to go outside unless he has to, which it totally me. And when he does go outside, he prefers staying on the concrete, only going out in the grass to do his business.

Bringing Niles into our home was one of the best things we've ever done. I don't know what I had been so worried about.

Happy Anniversary, Niles.


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