Prior to our bringing Francis home, a lot of people had expressed their concern to us about how we would deal with bringing a new child together with a house full of animals. We had a plan to introduce them slowly, not allow them in the same room alone together, and hope that he wasn’t allergic to them and that everyone got along!
We got very, very lucky.
Prior to our trip to the Philippines, we sent a photo album to Francis and included pictures of Lakota and all of the cats. When we met him and were still in the Philippines, it turned out that he had decided to take a liking to our cat, Boots. He was playing with our cell phones and pretending to “text Boots.” Whether the cat liked him or not, he had decided that she was going to be his kitty. Fortunately for everyone (especially Francis), Boots is a sweetheart of a cat and she is perfectly happy to have Francis love on her.
Introducing Francis to Lakota was a bit of a different story. We thought we had it all planned out. We had one of Lakota’s favorite treats ready for Francis to give her for as soon as we walked in the door from the airport. We figured this would put Francis on solid ground with her and still give her something to take a while to chew so that we would have enough time to get our bags in the door and get somewhat settled. What we had hoped wouldn’t happen, of course, did. Francis realized just how big Lakota really was, freaked out, refused to give her the cookie, and ran screaming into the next room. I think at that point we realized we were really in for it, and my parents, who had traveled with us, felt horrible about having to go home!
It took a few days, of course. As planned, one of us was always on top of Francis and Lakota whenever they were near each other. Lucky for us, Lakota, who has never shown much interest in children before, is a very intelligent dog and realized that someone very, very special had entered “her territory.” This little boy was someone her people seemed to love very much, and that was all Lakota needed to know to decide that Francis was going to be her boy, and the person she was most responsible for keeping safe. Doggy kisses? You bet. Once Francis let Lakota give him kisses, she was all over it. “Kissin’!” he would squeal when Lakota would lick him. Before he told either Gregg or me that he loved us, we heard him tell her, “I love you, ‘Kota.”
Like many children who are adopted at older ages, we are working through some issues with Francis’ adjustment. We expected that this would happen. We did not expect some of the extent that it would go to. What we also did not expect was that Lakota would become Francis’ therapy dog. Our feisty girl, who will become a teenager on Thanksgiving Day, knows just when our son is hurting the most, when to go to him and how to calm him down, just by being there and “Kissin’.” She also knows when it’s best to stay away. She’s done some things to calm him that I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t witnessed it myself.
Still, two of our cats haven’t quite warmed up to the newest member of the family yet. One of these days they’ll get with the program. Until then, Patches and Shadow prefer to hang out under our bed and hide during the day, then come out and play after Francis is in bed. I think he’s a little too active for their more reserved lifestyle.
So what would I say to the woman back in this post who criticized me for waiting to adopt a child until my dog was 12? I’d say I have an amazing dog and she’s doing just fine as a “big sister.”