Aaron on the Wild Side

Not even two miles from our house is an amazing wildlife park.  Tanganyika Wildlife Park is a favorite of ours, and definitely a favorite of Aaron’s.  Yesterday afternoon Gary and I took Aaron to Tanganyika for an afternoon on the wild side.  I loved these pictures so much that I just wanted to share them with all of you.

You can see by Aaron’s smile that he loves Tanganyika!

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We were greeted at the beginning of our visit by these ends!  🙂

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Aaron loved feeding Pluto some carrots.  Look at those teeth!!

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The penguins are adorable!

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We fed some lemurs but couldn’t take photos in there.

Then there was this huge guy, who is 48 years old!

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The kangaroo was soft and mellow.

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And Aaron LOVED the Lorikeets, especially the one who nibbled and licked his hair.

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This beauty danced when I played a song on my phone!  So much fun!

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There are so many other animals to see.  It’s just a great place…not too big but with plenty to see.

We ended with a stop to see and feed the giraffes.  Look at both these happy faces!!  What a perfect way to end our day on the wild side with Aaron!

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A Cow Up Close!

Our sweet friends, Bing and Lolly, lead our Life Group.  At our last meeting, Bing was showing a picture of an adorable calf that was born just that day to the cow owned by his son and his wife.  Troy and Nikki have a few cows, some goats, ducks, and chickens at their country home.  And I must mention their beautiful Husky named Winter.

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Aaron loves cows.  We always look for cows in the various pastures that we pass as we drive around our side of town.  So, I asked Bing and Lolly if it might be possible to bring Aaron to see Troy and Nikki’s cows, along with the cute little calf.

“Absolutely!” they said.  So last Saturday Gary and I drove with Aaron the short distance to Troy and Nikki’s house for a little animal time.  It was SO much fun to just watch Aaron relax and interact with the animals.  Nikki was very patient and sweet with Aaron, helping him feed and pet the mama cow and the goats; pet a chicken; and watch Winter jump up high for a bone.

The precious little calf kept his distance but oh, he was just the cutest little guy!

I’ll let the following pictures do the talking.

 

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Aaron really does love animals.  He had such a good time!

And so did Gary and I.  Moments like this are a gift to us that can’t be bought.  They can only be experienced, and for that we are truly thankful.

 

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No More Dog

Yesterday was the day that Gary and I have talked about and dreaded for so long.  We had to say that final goodbye to our precious Great Dane, Jackson.

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What a beautiful and wonderful dog he was to our entire family!

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In 2007, Andrea really, really, really wanted a dog…a BIG dog!  Gary and I really, really, really weren’t sure.  But finally, we said yes and the rest is history.  Jackson was born in May of that year, so he lived a good and long life of nearly 12 years, surpassing the normal life span of a Dane.

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After a few years, Andrea moved to Texas for grad school, and stayed there for career and now marriage.  Jackson stayed with us and enjoyed visits over the years from Kyle and Andrea’s doggies.

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Aaron loves animals and Jackson was his special friend.  Patient, kind Jackson tolerated Aaron’s noises, Aaron’s behaviors that sometimes scared him, and other behaviors that pleased him – like Aaron’s knack for sneaking him table food and doggie treats.

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Jackson also at times showed concern for Aaron’s seizures, such as in this picture shortly after Aaron awoke from a seizure.

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Many of you have asked how Aaron handled this loss of Jackson.  Gary and I talked so much about how to tell Aaron when the time came.  For months, Aaron knew that this possibility might become a reality.  We talked about it a lot, but when our decision came, and the appointment was made, it was hard to tell Aaron that the “maybe” was now going to happen the next day.

We told him at supper on Monday that on the next day we were having to put Jacks to sleep.

“I don’t want to put him to sleep,” Aaron said.  We told him that we agreed but we listed all the reasons it was necessary.  Aaron was mostly quiet about it then.

As I tucked Aaron in bed that night, he said again that he didn’t want to get rid of Jackson, as he put it.  But Aaron knew it was not going to change, much as we wished it could.

The dread hung over us all day yesterday, like a gloomy cloud.  I wondered what Aaron would do when he got home from his day group, knowing that in a short while we would take Jackson to the vet.

“Can I give Jackson some treats?” Aaron asked.  So, I told him to go ahead and give him all the rest of the chicken jerky treats in the bag, which were mostly small pieces, but to give them to him slowly.  Of course, this happened.

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Jackson was thrilled!  And so was Aaron, most definitely!

The time came, much as we wished it wouldn’t.  Gary and I got Jackson ready to go, making a potty stop in the yard.  I ran up to Aaron’s room while Jackson sniffed outside.

“Aaron,” I said.  “It’s time to take Jackson.  Do you want to say goodbye?”

“No,” Aaron flatly said.

I told him that I understood and said we would see him soon.

Gary sat in the back of the van with Jacks, keeping him from falling as he was so prone to do.  I pushed the button to close our garage door and was backing out of the driveway.  Just as I got on our road, I looked and saw that our garage door was opening.

“Good grief!” I said.  “We don’t have time for this!”  I thought our door was malfunctioning.

So, as I pulled back into the driveway, with the garage door opening, I saw legs.  And as the door fully opened, there stood Aaron in the middle of the garage…right at the open door…his right hand in the air, waving back and forth.

Bless his heart, he had indeed wanted to say goodbye.  I will never forget that image of him standing there waving his hand to his buddy.

I opened the side van door, and Aaron walked outside.  He stuck his head in the door.

“Bye, Dad!” he said.

He couldn’t bring himself to say the words to Jackson, but his eyes darted nervously to look at his friend.  Then Aaron backed up, eyes still looking at Jackson.  And as he started to walk away, he looked back one more time, still with scared eyes focusing on Jacks.

It was incredibly sweet and sad and broke down all my tough reserves as I cried all the way to the vet.

And Jackson, in what seemed like one final way of expressing his opinion of all this, pooped in the van!  Served us right…right?!

When we got home and sat down to supper, Aaron did another amazing thing.  He didn’t seem to mind at all that we had some tears, and if you know Aaron, you know how shocking that is.  Aaron hates for anyone to cry.  If I just sniff my nose, he instantly asks if I’m crying.  He thinks crying is weird…but in reality, tears make him very uncomfortable and he doesn’t know what to say or do.

Later, after supper, Aaron and I sat down to watch some television.  He was snacking on his new bag of Chex Mix.  Suddenly, he jumped up and walked to the kitchen, returning with another of his bowls.

“Here, Mom!” he said.  “I’m giving you some Chex Mix!”  He proceeded to pour me some in the bowl he had gotten and bring it to me with a big smile on his face.  And even though I didn’t really want it, I would never have said no after I saw his happy face.

You see, Aaron loves to share with people…most of the time.  But sharing his food or his movies or his treasures…whatever he has…is Aaron’s love language.

And it was like he wanted to share a snack with me because I was sad.  Kind of like he shared all those jerky treats with Jackson earlier, except I merited a bowl.  Then he kept bringing me the bagel chips and the “twirly crackers,” as he calls them, that he doesn’t like…dumping them in my bowl with all the excitement he would have if he was giving me something of huge importance.

But this was of huge importance because it showed me that he cared that I was sad.  Empathy doesn’t always come easily to Aaron, but on this night it did.  So I ate the crackers that I didn’t really want so much, more for him than for me.  Yet it WAS for me, too, because it was like a good medicine for my heart in so many ways.

Aaron, last night, agreed with our sadness and he showed it in the way that Aaron does…not with words or deep conversation…but with his actions.  He tolerated our tears, and he shared what was important to him at the moment.  I never tasted any better Chex Mix than what I ate last night!

This morning, after Aaron ate his huge pile of scrambled eggs that I made him for breakfast, he put his plate on the kitchen counter.  Little pieces of egg were on the plate…little pieces that ordinarily would have gone in Jackson’s food bowl for him to eat, much to Aaron’s great delight.

“I was almost going to go out and put those in Jackson’s bowl,” I said to Aaron.  “It’s hard to think that Jackson isn’t here.”

“Yeah,” Aaron replied.  “No more dog!”

And he walked off with that, making his chuckling noise that isn’t a laugh.  It’s like he’s satisfied with what he’s said…not necessarily happy but satisfied.

That’s the bottom line if I ever heard a bottom line.  Just get to the point with Aaron.  Say it like it is.  Put things into facts, place them in a category, and move on.

But I know he thinks deeply and he feels deeply.

That goodbye wave and my Chex Mix will remind me of that for a long, long time.

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A Fun Day at Tanganyika

I’m a little late to blog about our fun day at Tanganyika Wildlife Park.  This jewel is just a mile up the road from our house!   Gary and I took Aaron there on Memorial Day.

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We love it because it’s beautiful……and it’s not too big, so Aaron doesn’t get all tired out……and you have access to so many of the animals.  You can walk among them, feed them, ride some of them, and have some sit on your lap.  We didn’t ride the camel this year or have any animals on our lap, but we have done that in the past.  Anyway, it was a very nice day, so I wanted to share it with you in pictures.

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Come back and see us again!!