We began fostering Tessa for a local pet rescue during the spring of 2002. Before she could be put up for adoption Tessa first had to undergo treatment for sarcoptic and then demodectic mange. The treatments took several weeks and we had lots of time to get to know this adorable four month old puppy. She was irresistibly cute, very smart and possessed boundless energy. We were also alarmed to discover that she totally disliked children including my son, Matthew who has Down Syndrome. Tessa wouldn't go near him and growled whenever she saw him. Matthew simply ignored her reaction. He felt sorry for her because of the weekly medicated baths and treatments she had to endure. He would never approach her but just sit nearby and quietly tell her, "It's okay. I'm your friend and you'll be fine." Although I said nothing to Matthew, I was beginning to wonder if Tessa would be his or any other child's friend.
When Tessa was fully recovered we began taking her to the pet rescue for adoption display on Saturdays. Matthew was horrified and would emphatically tell me, "No, Tessa is my dog!" I have fostered countless dogs for adoption since before Matthew was even born and never did he react like this. What really puzzled me was that he knew Tessa didn't like him. Then something incredible happened.
It was Tessa's second Saturday at the pet rescue for adoption display. At the end of the afternoon we went to see if she had been adopted. Matthew rushed into the dog display area searching frantically for her and demanded the workers to give him "his" Tessa. He spotted her sitting in a cage and ran to her. Before anyone could stop him he flung open the cage door and had Tessa in his arms. I couldn't believe my eyes. Tessa was happily licking his face. That's when we knew what Matthew had known all along. Tessa was his dog.
From that point on, Matthew and Tessa have been inseparable. Just as Matthew sensed there was something different about Tessa, she has sensed there is something different about him, too. Matthew is a member of the Miami County Special Olympics Unified Golf team. When he's not on the golf course or at the driving range, he often practices in our backyard and Tessa helps him. Recently we were invited to share our story of Matthew's experience with our pets and how they have enhanced his life in a documentary presented on the Discovery Health channel. There was no question of which of our pets would appear in this program with Matthew. His Tessa.