by Laura Sylvester
Once again, the boys are snug in their bed and I am too excited to sleep. Orbit has slept the whole night on Elliot’s bed, something Tim and Elise trained him to do. I know… I know… a dog hardly needs to be trained to sleep on a bed with his human. But actually, service dogs are always trained not to do so. Sleeping on our bed denotes an elevated pack status. So, if a dog is to be a “service” dog, it is best practice not to invite him to sleep with you. (Elise, did I get that right?) However, this is one of the things that we requested Tim and Elise teach him. You see, although he is 10 years old, Elliot still has trouble sleeping through the night; so, he still sleeps in our room. He has his own bed that was recently upgraded from a twin to a full to make room for Orbit. Oh how I wish I had a night vision camera and could sneak a shot of the two of them. At 3am Orbit was curled up next to Elliot with his head on Elliot’s chest. At 5am, when I decided there was no use in trying to go back to sleep, Orbit was on his back with all 4 legs stretched out. I so wanted to pet his tummy, but I have strict orders to “BACK OFF and let Orbit be Elliot’s dog.”
My orders to “BACK OFF” came from Tim and Elise; but actually, they first came Thursday night in one of those half asleep, half awake moments. I flashed back to a time when my parents used to live in North Lake Tahoe. This is where my yellow lab, Buddy, and I spent many a day -- retreating from and recovering from my failing marriage. Buddy was my angel - my ‘thank god I have you’ dog that got me through what I thought back then were my darkest days. We used to walk together in a high meadow that was a short drive from my parents’ home. It was a cathartic activity for all seasons, but spring was my favorite. This was the most peaceful place on earth.
Years later, long after Buddy had passed away, I was experiencing an even darker period in my life called “your child has autism.” To help myself cope, I took a guided meditation class in an attempt to quiet my brain and quell all of the negative emotions that were overtaking me. The instructor had us envision a place in our minds that was peaceful and I always chose the meadow. Ever since then, this meadow in the serene High Sierra is my mental quiet place. I go there to clear my head when I can’t sleep or when I try to meditate. So the other night when I couldn't sleep, I let my mind take me to the meadow, just as I have done hundreds of times now - taking private sanctuary alone and in peace. But this time my angel greeted me... Buddy was there! I lay down next to him and let my mind drift. Of course, it drifted to the thought of Orbit arriving the next day and then, out of nowhere, I got hit with this powerful thought - "BACK OFF".
So, in the dark of last night while the boys slept, I decided it best to follow the wisdom of my friends and angels. I did not rub Orbit’s exposed, warm tummy… tempting as it was. I slipped quietly out of the room to let it be.