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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The Family Pet (05/15/08)

By Alice Zvacek


My son Kyle was seven years old and had never really had a friend. All of his teachers tried to be his friend, but it’s not the same as having a friend to play with. I couldn’t really blame the other kids. Kyle has autism and some of his actions can be very different and frightening. He would sometimes stand in the park and flap his arms and squeal like a bird. Other times he would run around the playground giggling hysterically. He also didn’t know how to share. If Kyle told another child “I play.” He would take over the toy, and the other child would loose it. We would try to correct bad behaviors but that usually ended up in a meltdown.

Then one day Kyle got to play with Max at my friend Elaine’s house. Max accepted Kyle as he was. Whatever Kyle wanted to play – be it chase, fetch (with some help from Mom to do the throwing), tummy tickle – Max was game. When we got home that day Kyle said, “That fun.” He was also worn out.

I called Elaine. “You won’t believe it! Kyle was so happy and tired that he went to bed without our daily struggle!” She replied “Kyle wore Max out too. He conked out the minute you all left.”

They played together several times over the next few weeks. One Tuesday evening Elaine called. “Ted and I are going to be going on a six month mission trip to Poland in a few weeks, and we would like to know if you all could watch Max.” She sensed my hesitation. “We could leave him with my sister Judy, but he and Kyle seem to be doing so well together that we thought it might be best to leave him with you all. If it doesn’t work out, you could still take him to Judy’s.”

It’s not that I didn’t want Max, but we weren’t exactly set up for a 60 pound black lab mix. We had never had a dog before. Since we had the out of her sister’s house if it didn’t work out, we decided to try it.

Max soon became the best friend that Kyle had never had. They played together non-stop. Kyle learned to throw the ball for fetch. He learned to kiss and hug. He learned to share. We did have to tell him that he didn’t have to share Max’s dog food though. He also made some new friends at the park. All of the other kids thought Max was neat and would come up to the pair. Max was never far from Kyle’s side and even helped Kyle calm down from a meltdown. Needless to say we didn’t take Max to Judy’s house.

I worried about what would happen when Elaine and Ted came back. I had talked to Kyle a few times about Max eventually going home. He had always cried and gone into a meltdown.

When they got home, they came over, and Max and Kyle were in the back yard. They watched and were amazed by the progress. I decided to go to the park. They couldn’t believe that other children came up to Kyle and that another boy actually played Frisbee with him and Max.

We had decided to get another dog for Kyle when Max had to go home, and I started to tell Elaine that. She held up her hand. “Joanie, there’s no way we could take Max away from Kyle even if we wanted to. This is what he was meant to do.” She smiled at Ted. “We’re really glad that things have gone so well because we feel called to full time missions in Poland. We would need someone to give Max to anyway.”

That was five years ago. Max isn’t the only friend Kyle has now, but he is his best friend. Kyle is so much more confident. He even spent the night at a friend’s house last week – without Max. Everything that Max does for Kyle at home carries over to his life out in the real world too. Three years ago Kyle passed one of his largest hurdles ever. He learned to read – by reading out loud to Max.

Max is pretty spoiled with his cushy bed and so much attention. Friends remark that he must think he’s the king, but that’s alright because to us he is the king!

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Member Comments
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Sara Harricharan 05/22/08
Wow, I love stories like this. Max is a total keeper! I loved to see how his friendship completely transformed Kyle, it was great! Wonderful job. ^_^
Judy Bowers05/27/08
This is an absolutely wonderful story. Love it, love it, love it! Max found his purpose in life and Kyle has a better life because of it. Well written!