J need never know that he hasn’t invaded and conquered the deck. We always meant for him to have an outdoor space to call his own, a place to hang out and listen to music while the warmth of the sun surrounds him. We’ve allowed him to believe that he has stolen this space from us because it makes him happy to think that, well, he’s put one over us. We will likely sit there late in the evening when J is already in his room, slowly drifting away to dream land. Once darkness falls, fireflies come out and the air cools slightly we will be winding down…what the deck does when it’s not with us is none of our business.
Of course, this recourse was threatened yesterday by the appearance, sudden and rather obvious, of a dog without a leash. Oh, he seemed friendly enough, but who is going to convince J that this animal is not the enemy when all dogs are the same to him? So J ran into the house, ever so slightly horrified, and announced -in a mournful tone- that he was going to his room. It’s amazing how much speed he can display…
This was after dinner. The day was already winding down so we didn’t want to pressure him until we could come up with a solution. Out came the measuring tape and we tried to figure out what would make J feel secure and safe from canines without impeding the cats’ ability to climb in and out of the area. Safety gates seemed the logical solution, but the size we needed usually requires hardware for mounting, and since we would like to see SOME of our deposit when we finally move out, we were hoping for something less permanent. The less permanent version in the size we required was either “special order” or expensive, and usually both.
We sat on the plastic chairs and pondered. J had placed two large planters with potted herbs and another with green peppers on the step. Access was not the problem, we concluded, but rather the impression of access. “Digging a moat, I suppose, is out of the question,” I said to no one in particular, but I knew my husband would shake his head vigorously and say “no moat-digging, woman” because that’s the way these conversations usually go. I still hold out hope that someday I will be allowed to dig a moat, but I’m not holding my breath.
Shower curtain rods and a remnant piece from a sheet I’d made curtains out of…that was the solution. It covers the space perfectly and, to J’s mind, it is such a forbidding structure that no dog would dream of trying to tackle the task of surmounting it. I will not be the person to indicate to J that this is a rather inexpensive cotton sheet that has been folded in half and sewn to form pockets for the rods. As far as I’m concerned, this is the equivalent of reminding a person about the force of gravity as they’re trying to walk a high-wire. The less he knows about the illusion I’ve created, the more secure he will feel, and that will ensure that he uses the deck at his leisure.
This morning, at barely seven, J was already happily lurking around the sliding glass door that leads out to his new kingdom. The sun, which slants mercilessly towards this spot until around 10:30, prevented him from leaping out and starting the day. The board, my new best friend/worst enemy, came to the rescue: by 8:00 we had cleaned the kitchen, sorted the recycling, changed the sheets on our bed, put clean towels in the boys’ bathroom and, as excited as one who knows a treat is heading his way, at 8:15 J finally bounced up the stairs to TGG’s room, unceremoniously opened the door and, finding his older, car-owning, licensed-to-drive brother still in bed, started poking the shoulder until consciousness took over and TGG said “hey! Good morning!” in a nicer tone than the one I would have used if I’d been prodded awake in that fashion. J’s right hand immediately shot forward and, so close to his eyes that TGG had to lean back to focus, he held out the PECS for Target. GO IN THE CAR!!!! “You want to go to Target???” GO IN THE CAR!!!! GO TO TARGET!!!! CHANGE YOUR CLOTHES!!!!
His enthusiasm carried us out of the house, into the store and out of the store in less than an hour…the only thing that slowed J down was sitting down to breakfast at Chick-Fil-A, where he asked for his drink by tapping insistently on the sign that displayed the brand of what he wanted. By the time we got home, he was so excited about getting out to the deck that he almost protested having to put away our purchases. He’s been outdoors since, tolerating the presence of the oldest of our cats on the other cheap plastic chair and listening to music that has made him giggle with joy all afternoon.
The board, of course, is something I know we need, but it’s also something that J considers an aid to ME rather than to him. The intended purpose is to establish and maintain a routine of work and play for J, and to add vocabulary and signs to his catalog. I have new signs to learn, new tasks to add to the board and J simply picks things up eagerly, enthusiastically, and almost as if he’s doing ME a huge favor by going along with my plan. Each morning I get the impression that he is here to remind me of what needs to get done, and to motivate me to do it.
Oh, the patience with which he looks at me. The only thing missing is a pat on the head. Now, now, mother, he seems to be saying with his sweet smile, you OBVIOUSLY want these things done and there’s no time like the present. Wake up, sleepy head, and let’s get going. You don’t need that coffee, do you? If you’re not dunking something in it, well, it’s just not worth it…give me…and now wash the cup. We’re wasting time!!!! Come on…the board says: VACUUM, SWEEP, MOP, RECYCLING, CHECK THE MAILBOX, GO FOR A WALK…things to do, things to do…
Before I notice, J has swept me up and carried me away in a whirl of activity. Sigh…
Yeah, I was so excited that I’d convinced him he’d taken over the deck…and he’s taken over the board and my morning! Who’s the naive one, then???? That would be ME…and I couldn’t be more pleased!