Nathan introduced her to us last spring. She comes from a loving home in Missouri. Quiet-natured like Nathan, their personalities complement each other. Nathan has brought girls home before, but this time was different.
Her name is Ashwin. She’s drop-dead-gorgeous and she’s a Miniature American Shephard who has won over all of our hearts.
Ashwin is peace
Maybe it’s my life stage, but I’ve not witnessed the peaceful impact of a canine as I have with Ashwin. Public warnings included, “She needs a lot of exercise. She will wear you out. She demands a lot.” So do high school students. Welcome to my world! But the balance of attention-to-Ashwin versus the output of Peace she bestows on our family is remarkable. Ashwin’s Peace is powerful.
Preston’s attention to dogs has been hit or miss; but with Ashwin, he’s been all in from day one. He seems to understand her emotions and reciprocates appropriately. For example, during our family’s first outing walking Ashwin in the neighborhood Preston reached over, took the leash, and seized command of the walk. Perhaps it’s his keen understanding of non-verbal communication, but Preston seemed to know Ashwin’s needs seconds before they presented. He transferred the leash from his right to left hand as Ashwin switched sides. He twirled around following Ashwin’s roadway dance. He kept Ashwin close by his side. All this without instruction. Wanna see the dance? Watch it here. As I said – All-In!
Ashwin is love
There’s the sweet, mushy love. The kind Kurt and I unabashedly present loud and proud with our public and gushy kissy-kissy “I love you’s” to Preston. Then there’s the empowering Tough Love. The kind that doesn’t enable, but rather fosters growth and independence.
Two things: 1) One of Nathan’s reasons for getting Ashwin was to have an emotional support for Preston. And 2) Nathan’s love for Preston goes beyond mushy. Nathan gets at the heart of what Preston really needs as an almost 27-year old adult male – increasing independence.
Nathan expects more from Preston
There’s a scene in the recent hit movie, The Peanut Butter Falcon, where the ugly truth comes out. At least it really spoke to me as a mother. As one who wants to constantly protect Preston I may be inadvertently disrespecting him; holding him back; coddling him too much. No, I don’t call Preston the “R” word, but I do think my inactions or coddling may hold him back. I get Preston’s water for him; Nathan teaches Preston how to get his own water. I pack Preston’s lunch, Nathan expects Preston to pack his own. I clean up Preston’s mess; Nathan teaches Preston how to get the recycle bin and clean out the recyclables from the car. Nathan expects more from Preston. He knows how to protect but he doesn’t over-protect. Nathan holds the bar a bit higher for Preston than I do and because of this, we’ve seen Preston’s independent thinking skills change.
Some examples include:
Without prompting, Preston will diverge from his daily outfit of khaki shorts and green shirt to get long pants, a new blue shirt and a jacket when told, “we’re going to church!”
Seeing snow outside, Preston located and wore boots both to and from his video viewing room (the “shop” which requires him going outside, down and around to the basement.) In the past, he’s worn them down but not back. Now he wears them down and back.
When directed to get the low-salt chips, Preston reached for the only low-salt chip bag on the shelf (Kurt did not point to the bag.)
At one of his favorite volunteer/work-training sites, Random Acts of Flowers, Preston ---without fuss--will wear an apron and flex his fine motor skills to arrange flowers. He also really enjoys composting!
Fun at Random Acts of Flowers!
Preston doesn’t miss a step in a routine. He knows his breakfast is served in a to-go container Monday through Friday. So, when I presented his breakfast in a to go-container on a Saturday, he moved the contents to a regular bowl.
Honesty can save a life.
Back to that movie – The Peanut Butter Falcon. If you haven’t seen it, you’ve got to put it in your que. I cried the first time I saw it; I laughed often the 2nd time. The movie casts an adult with Down Syndrome as one of the leading characters (Zack.) Although they didn’t show it in the credits, Preston had to be the consult for the scene where Zack is running down the beach in his underwear. And while Preston doesn’t verbalize it, Zack captures Preston’s ability to pierce the heart with naked honesty.
After being arrested for public intoxication, Zack told Shia that he had to stop drinking…that he was ruining not just his own life, but Zack’s opportunity for success. To quote Shia, “Zack can’t not shoot straight, and bless him for it, ‘cause in that moment, I needed a straight shooter who I couldn’t argue with.” At the time of the arrest, Shia promised Zack that he wouldn’t drink for the rest of the shoot. Two years later, he is still sober. Now that’s the power of tough love stemming from naked honesty!
Ashwin is Joy
So much joy. If you have children, you know the overwhelming feeling of joy they can bring; especially when they exhibit how excited they are to see you during a period of absence. Kids grow up and their excitement wanes. That’s why people near or in retirement get dogs. To feel Joy again! To feel needed again. I get it. Boy does Ashwin bring on the joy. Her joy presents when she catches a glimpse of you walking towards her pen…with literal leaps of “I’m-so-excited-to-see-you” as you approach. Her joy is showcased when she sprints towards Preston, slides into his video collection, and jumps up to kiss him on the face. And her joy is evident in Kurt’s conversations as he unknowingly calls her the same name he calls Preston…….. “Well hey there, Sugar!”
Wishing you Peace, Love & Joy in 2020