I came across an opportunity late Fall to bring another dog into the family. Being that we really missed that "big dog" presence in the house, we wanted a dog sooner than later to be already used to our family by the time the new baby would walk, and the puppies were what we were looking for, we decided to go ahead and commit to taking one of them for our newest family member. We didn't tell the girls, but instead told them we were going to the small petting zoo farm we have visited before. When we got to the farm where we were picking up our new puppy, the kids were absolutely shocked. So much so their reaction was quiet and in disbelief! They thought Brian was just getting a puppy for them to pet so when we told them he was ours to bring home, they were elated. The girls chose to name him Bentley and so he has taken his place in our family quite well. He has big shoes to fill - Dudley was such an integral part of our life. But we have no doubt Bentley will make his own path in the family and be a joy to all of us, especially Meagan.
Prior to Christmas, Meagan's four older sisters competed in the Irish Dance Regionals (Oireachtas) again this year. They did both team and solo dances and everyone did a wonderful job! Reilly placed 18th and qualified to compete at Nationals. Kaitlin placed top 10! She also qualified to go to Nationals. Anna danced her first solos and made it through with two clean performances. And all three girls along with Maura competed in team competitions where they did a very good job and will also be going to Nationals for teams. I'm so proud of them, especially since they had to go with Brian on their own since I was so close to my due date. They traveled on a plane for the first time, had a total blast, danced really well, and enjoyed a wonderful weekend with Brian, my mom (who flew in to help), and all of our Irish dance friends.
Unfortunately, we also had a sad occurrence over Christmas break. Our beloved adopted cat, Francis, passed away suddenly. He stopped eating one day and went downhill fast. I took him to the vet where they tested him for several things. His white count ended up over 90,000 and his marrow was barely making any more platelets. It was awful. I syringe fed him for a week to see if he would turn around, but, he unfortunately started to get fluid in his lungs and so we had to take him to be put to sleep. He was so young to go and was such a wonderful "bridge" when we lost Dudley. He helped us get through his loss and we were looking forward to many more years with Francis and Bentley. But unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. It's so amazing how he came in to our lives and just seemed like the perfect fit. Perhaps that was his purpose... to come to us, help us through Dudley's loss, and then be on his way. Either way, he was a very much loved member of our family and we will greatly miss our one eared cat.
I took Bentley to the training center on a Tuesday night. We met with the head trainer/owner who did the evaluation. It was very interesting to watch - he did many tasks with Bentley, a few of which were testing friendliness, how he reacted to different positions and temptations, and how he reacted to different intense stimulations (like loud noises or things thrown in his direction..etc.). After two and a half hours of evaluation, we found out that Bentley passed! The trainer we were working with was a former neuroscience researcher, so when we designed the program for Bentley and Meagan, it was definitely one of those "meant to be" moments. It was very easy to make goal behaviors for Bentley because the trainer understood many of the intangible needs Meagan has.
Overall, the last few months have definitely been a line of stepping stones. Some have been up, and some have been down...but that's how steps go anyway, right? One foot is always in the front, and one in the back as we move. What matters in life is which foot we pay attention to - the one in the back, or the one up front pushing us to the next point in our life. If we focus on the back foot, we will never see the potential...however if we ignore the back foot, we lose our momentum that pushes us forward. Stepping stones are definitely a balance and the last few months have certainly unfolded in that sense. We are so excited for the continuation of Meagan's journey and what it will bring. Adding in Bentley's training makes me hopeful Meagan can enjoy more and more stepping stones on her own as she grows.
The link for Meagan's fundraiser is HERE (Help Meagan Get Bentley Service Trained). We appreciate any donation whether it be monetary, sharing her link, spreading the word, or keeping all of us in your prayers. I will be updating the fundraising site with facts about Bentley's training, and as he starts, what he is learning. We look forward to what this new relationship can mean for Meagan's independence, and therefore her ability to do more with her sisters and the family.