I’ll never forget the day Nikolai came home and asked me if I thought he was stupid. Tears were trickling down his cheeks, his mouth was twisted in emotional agony, and his sunshine blue eyes had turned into wells of pain. The mother bear within was ready to rip someone apart.
“Kids can be brutal.” I soothed as I gathered him into my arms and tried to hide bitter tears of my own.
The ride home had been filled with silence. I kept asking about his day but the set of his jaw spoke volumes. The moment we walked through our front door his words came tumbling out. I sat with him in my lap, little fingers curled around mine and listened for him to tell me the entire sordid tale.
Nikolai (Doodles as we call him) had been sitting at his desk, pencil in hand when the teacher asked him to write his name at the top of the page. His mind went blank. He began to fidget and get nervous.
“Don’t you know how to write your own name? What are you stupid or something?” His young classmate sneered as all eyes turned to look at him.
Nikolai froze. He didn’t know how to react. He just sat there gripping his pencil until his knuckles turned white.
“You ARE stupid! Who doesn’t know how to write their own name? Stupid people, that’s who!” The girl taunted.
Thankfully his best friend whispered into his ear “It’s okay Nikolai. I’ll do it for you.”
Unfortunately the damage had been done and the little girl began to make every day a nightmare from that moment on. She called him names, singled him out, humiliated him, and alienated Nikolai from his classmates. Meanwhile, I wrote his teacher on a regular basis in an attempt to resolve it. His seat was moved somewhere else in the classroom… but nothing helped. My happy bubbly boy was being pulled into depression.
I spent most mornings begging him to go to school. I gave him pep talks and let him take a stuffed animal with him so he wouldn’t feel alone. He carried a stuffed fox lovingly called Foxy everywhere he went. Yet the boy who normally never meet a stranger began to have trouble making friends. Eventually he stopped trying and I grew increasingly concerned. He was sad constantly.
“Please mom, please don’t make me go. I hate school. I really don’t want to go. I don’t feel safe. Kids hate me.”
I would sit in the car, put my face in my hands and cry about forcing him to be there. I had meetings with the principal, I took him to do as many fun things as possible but nothing made an impact. More than being bullied, Nikolai had been struggling to learn. I knew in the depth of my soul that my son had a learning disability. No matter how many times his teacher and I went over words and letter sounds, the boy wasn’t grasping them.
Second grade came and brought new beginnings… but the battle ground was much of the same. More bullies and the struggle to learn was forever present as it hung like darkness over his head. Outside our favorite park one afternoon, my husband had a conversation with our son about our farm animals and their mutual desire to get another dog. Our beautiful Moose has been living in her golden years. She’s gray around the muzzle and we give her pain medicine for arthritis. She is forever the light of our lives since we rescued her from the Humane Society in Atlanta (long before we moved to our little farm in the woods).
Tallulah is my service dog. She loves to play with Nikolai but she gets overly excited and her size sometimes knocks him over. While they’re two peas in a pod… Niki isn’t allowed to feed her or walk her. Tulla’s job lies in helping me monitor my health and she takes it seriously.
Nikolai wanted a dog. The more I thought about it and the struggles my son had been enduring… the more I got on board. Plus, I was outnumbered two to one! I spent a good amount of time researching because it’s not easy for a dog to fit into the established crew on our farm. The right dog needed to be outgoing but friendly. They would need to be able to get along with Moose and Tallulah, while learning to live around chickens and livestock.
Most of all… the right kind of dog needed to be small enough for an (almost) eight year old boy to handle but have a big enough personality to be a best friend for life. All of which is a rather tall order for a dog. It took a lot of internet browsing on my computer at the local coffee shop to find somewhere to take Nikolai to look for a dog while checking off our primary requirements.
When my husband and I picked Nikolai up from school, we didn’t tell him where we were going. The winding mountain drive to Blue Ridge forced us to squash his questions about our plans for the afternoon under the premise that we needed to run some errands (which wasn’t a lie). Since we had already agreed to get him a dog, Nikolai sat in the back seat excitedly discussing how he had told his entire class.
It wasn’t until a little pal named Einstein came across my Facebook feed which put the Humane Society of Blue Ridge Georgia on my radar. The almost all white dog looked similar to a baby Yoda with his cocky little ears. He was too cute to pass up an introduction. The bonus being H.S.B.R had a couple of other dogs for us to see as well (just in case).
“Are we at a doctor’s office?” He asked when we pulled up outside a red brick building. His small face etched in confusion.
“Lets go inside and find out. Tell the lady at the desk that you would like to meet Einstein.” I smiled feeling a little tearful.
The beauty of looking for a forever friend is keeping an open mind. Sometimes the dog you have your heart set on or imagine yourself with… isn’t the one that’s right for you. Einstein wasn’t a good fit for Nikolai. He was fearful, and nervous after having been abused by kids. Although Niki loved him right away… it was clear to me that Nikolai wasn’t what the sweet guy needed. It took some convincing on my part but Doodles agreed to meet the second contender… a scrappy six month old pup the Humane Society lovingly named, Dunn.
From the moment this large eared, funny faced little dog walked into Nikolai’s life… it was as if the two of them were made for one another. He bounced his way into Niki’s arms, licked his jaw and Nikolai erupted into a fit of giggles.
“This is my dog!” Nikolai proclaimed proudly, and as if he always had been Nikolai’s dog… the two of them walked to our car together.
On the playground after school, Nikolai was surrounded by children. His puppy (who never meets a tiny human he doesn’t like) had his stubby tail going wild. Kids were laughing, wiping slobber off their palms and cheeks, while Nikolai’s wing-man helped him make more friends than he knew what to do with. The tough days he had at school were meet with kind eyes and a playful gesture when he came home.
The nightmares about the man who broke into our house, were soothed by having this little dog rest beside him. Nikolai isn’t afraid to be alone in his bedroom anymore which is exactly what I was hoping for. He isn’t afraid of the dark anymore either because if something is amiss… his partner will let him know.
The learning disability may always be there. I myself have struggled with dyslexia since I was young. Yet the burdens people face in life aren’t quite as heavy when they have a friend to share it with. There’s something spectacular about dogs… they are capable of loving unconditionally. It doesn’t matter what you look like or what you struggle with, they only care about who you are as a person.
As I sat scribbling down notes for a blog post… Nikolai asked me to brainstorm names for his (at that moment) future dog. I thoughtfully suggested that we call his new friend-to-be Scribbles. He pondered for a moment, and with a huge grin… exclaimed that Scribbles was perfect (and he was).
Notes from the author:
* Scribble’s introduction to Tallulah & Moose, and the rest of the farm couldn’t have gone any better. All three dogs are the best of friends.
* Apologies for not being on time with my post this week, I skipped last week because it was my birthday, and I was late this week because Niki gave me a cold virus from school. I’ll be back to posting regularly on Tuesday’s at 10:00 AM this next week. Thanks for being patient with me!
* If you haven’t seen the post my friend Jen from BosssyBabe did about me and my little farm blog… you’re missing out! I answer a ton of questions about how I got to where I am, why I write the way I do, and what drives me. Take a moment to stop by and check her out plus… her blog is down right incredible so read some of her other posts as well. She’s one of my favorites!