I foster dogs through my local animal shelter and recently brought home Ace, a one-year-old puggle named after the Snoopy flying ace character. Ace had been hit by a car and his family could not afford to have his broken leg fixed. They surrendered him to my local shelter. After surgery, he needed a place to heal his clipped wing. It took Ace a few days to get used to us. But once he did, we all fell in love. Ace knew his jobs - to snuggle up with me while I slept, to wake my 17-year-old son Ryan for school, to be accepted by Brendan - my 19-year-old son who is on the autism spectrum - and to find his way into the heart of my big old grumpy poodle.
Ace didn’t know his other job was to get strong. He approached all his jobs like the ace that he was and three weeks later, his wing was healed well enough so he could be put up for adoption. It was time for Ace to fly. I didn’t want to let him go but I couldn’t keep him. He had his wings.
It is not just dogs developing their wings in my household. My 19-year-old has Asperger’s syndrome and doesn’t like disruptions in his routine. He doesn’t like to be far from his coping mechanisms - DVDs blaring on his laptop and music on his I-pod. He began to panic when his laptop starting malfunctioning days before he and his brother were going to visit family in Washington, D.C. I began to panic as well and took him to buy a new laptop to avoid a break down. There was a minor melt down on the way home from the store when they didn’t have the laptop he wanted. We got home and I escaped to my bathtub. Forty minutes later, I went downstairs. Laptop, I-pod, DVD player and cords were scattered all over my kitchen table. He had fixed whatever had malfunctioned.
"Really?" I said.
"Yes," he said.
"So you are all set for the trip?"
"I'm still suspicious, but yes," he smiled. He had done it. He had figured it out and although he still had his doubts, he was okay with it. He had the wings he needed to go on his trip.
Then there is Ryan, my younger son. I don’t think he knows how much I love him and how terrific he is. He knows that I am always paying attention to his older brother and that I frequently bring foster dogs home for short periods of time. But Ryan is an amazing kid. He makes honor roll at school; he is a high achiever in football and track; he is funny; he is helpful around the house; he accepts the dogs I bring home as his own; he loves his brother. Ryan is gaining his wings, literally and figuratively. He is taking flying lessons. He wants to enlist in the air national guard in hopes of qualifying to be trained as a pilot. He asked about going to boot camp this summer, between his junior and senior years of high school. I said no. I am not ready for him to grow his wings.
Amy Lewis Faircloth is the co-author of the award-winning novel Wicked Good, the story of a mother and her adopted son who has Asperger's syndrome and searches for his birth parents.