"Right there...shit, where is she?"
"I thought you had her!"
"She can't have gone far."
"Kate! Kate! Kate!"
"Did the alarm go off?"
"No. I don't think so. It didn't right? She has to be inside the house"
"Grace, where is your sister?!"
"I hear her. Check the closet."
"She's here. She's in the closet with her turtles."
A common conversation for us. Kate often doesn't respond to her name. Sound familiar? I am sure it does. We lose her inside our house and we panic. Our stomachs drop. We quickly calculate home many minutes she has been gone and how far she could have gone. It is our biggest fear. One day, it is likely that we could lose sight of her when we are outside of the outside of the house. This can't happen.
Why would she leave? She seems so social and happy to be around people?
She would leave because she does not fear leaving. She would leave because she saw something of interest outside the window. She would leave because she is looking for her cat or her ball. She would leave because she is completely fearless. She would leave because she is confused or angry. There are so many reasons why Kate would leave.
She would not be able to tell someone who she is or where she lives. She would go with them in a heartbeat, feeling she's made a friend (which scares us even more) and she could not reliably express helpful information to get her back to us.
She would not be afraid. She would not feel alone. She would not stop if she chose to go. It absolutely terrifies me. I've tested her. I watched her walk away at the mall. I slowly crept behind her to see how far she'd go. She didn't ever look back. Why didn't she look back?
We've often tried the: "Okay, fine Katie, we are leaving and you can stay here in the grocery store." Typical kids run to catch up, terrified at the prospect of spending the night at the store. Kate doesn't even look up to acknowledge our threat. Staying suits her just fine.
How will a service dog help?
A service dog will keep her safe. A service dog will plant and hold her if she tries to slip away while I reach for something high on a grocery store shelf. He will be my eyes when I need to address Grace's needs or pay for a purchase or even blink a little too long. She's quick you know. It doesn't take long.
A service dog will provide pressure and comfort that will keep her calm and create less chance of her trying to escape somewhere we need to be. The doctor's office, the hospital, or even just a family function will be easier for all of us. We are the master's of leaving early and I know some of you are too.
A service dog will allow her dad and I to visit friends without always checking and double-checking that Kate is staying put. We will be able to fully engage in conversations. We won't always be checking exits and making excuses for why we keep running to check on her.
A service dog will not allow her to run to the road when her ball rolls there. She's fast you know. I grip her hand tightly when we go out in public but in our driveway she has more freedom. She can be happily playing in the sand one minute and racing for the road the next.
A service dog will help us do all those things we do to keep Kate safe, anyway.
I don't know when or if Kate will develop a healthy fear of the unknown. I don't know if she will learn to regulate her emotions without help. For now, she needs a little help and we feel a service dog can help us provide that for her.