We are members of a country club. We don’t play golf or tennis, but we joined because it is really close to our house, it has a great pool where all the neighborhood kids go, the gym is nice, and the kids really like it there. It is also a very civilized place. That’s the part where we don’t fit in so well. I could say a lot of nice things about my family, but civilized comes last on my list. Understandably, I was nervous bringing Gray there for dinner with Hope. Of course, I have brought him for dinner there before, but before Hope, we could slip in unnoticed and make a quick dash out the door if he started getting out-of-hand. It’s hard to move around under-the-radar when you travel with a large black dog.
Of course, things are different now; we are not just trying to get through meals as quickly as possible. Now, our goals have changed. Now, we are learning to go out for a nice dinner and sit nicely and act civilized. So, I figured we need to climb this mountain and start practicing manners in the most civilized place that will accept us.
Things did not start out very well. Although we walked in without problems, once we got inside, it became clear that Gray had his own agenda. He did not want to sit at a table and have dinner, he wanted to go to kids club. That’s the snack-filled babysitting room where kids can hang out while parents go to the gym or have a super-civilized dinner. Unfortunately, kids club was not an option. We were going for a family dinner and we were ALL GOING TO ENJOY OURSELVES! Well, let me correct myself. Barry was planning to hit the gym while I had dinner with the kids and one of Gray’s fabulous therapists. As the hostess lead us to our table, Gray started getting upset and pulling away from the room. I used the magic of the tether and handle on Hope’s service pack to keep Gray moving along towards our table. Barry looked worried. The girls were oblivious. As we got into our seats and Gray started getting whipped up, I looked up at Barry and said, “Get some Nilla wafers from kids club! Go! Go! Go!” Barry took off in a full sprint.
The girls settled into their seats and started talking about Shirley Temples while Gray’s therapist and I tried to keep his screams down to a dull roar. I started putting my hand over his mouth on each screaming exhale. The therapist pulled out Gray’s iPad to encourage him to communicate or watch a movie. As Barry came running back with the cookies, I broke them into pieces and offered them to Gray. I even put one in his gaping mouth. He nearly choked on his next pre-scream inhale. Finally, he took his iPad and said, “I need to go to the bathroom.” So, we pulled Hope out from her calm seat under the table and Gray was escorted to the bathroom (screaming the whole way) with the therapist and I flanking him on either side. Barry stayed behind with the girls. He looked distraught.
As we made our way to the bathroom, a woman started walking with me with a sweet look on her face. She said, “I know you are feeling stressed right now, but you should know that we are all rooting for you. We all have kids and we have all had to live through meltdowns. Everyone understands that you are in a difficult situation and you just need to practice this a few times. Hang in there.” I was floored. I could not imagine that someone would be able to choose such inspiring words for such a humiliating situation. It was like a fairy godmother appeared to encourage me!
When we got to the bathroom, it was clear that Gray did not need to go, he just wanted an escape. I decided to take him for a walk in the parking lot to cool off. His therapist ran back to the table to ask Barry to order a burger and fries for Gray. As we walked through the parking lot, Gray began to calm down. This was a luxury that would not be possible before Hope arrived. There is no way that I would walk with an upset Gray in a parking lot without that dog. Gray’s therapist came out to join us and let us know that the food was on the way. As we returned to the front door, I asked Gray what he wanted. As soon as his therapist presented his iPad, he said “I want to eat hamburger.” I told him that there was a hamburger at the table, but he needed to walk inside quietly to be able to eat.
And that’s exactly what he did! As he sat down nicely at the table and started eating his dinner, I looked over at Barry to tell him that he was free to go to the gym. He just held up a glass of scotch that he was drinking and said, “I changed my mind.”