Seven Days to Goodbye & Starting Over
by Sheri S Levy
GENRE: Young Adult- coming of age
Thirteen year old, Trina has chosen to raise service dogs and have puppy after puppy. But during her seven day beach vacation, Trina struggles with having to return Sydney at the end of the week and worrying about her best friend changing into a stranger. To complicate the week, Sydney, meets a young boy with autism and the girls meet his two older brothers. Tension is raised over the guys, and Trina fears she’ll lose more than her service dog. Will Trina's lose her best friend, also?
Sydney climbed on my lap and licked the corners of my eyes. I buried my face in his soft fur and scratched under his chin. He leaned into my hand as I whispered, “We’ll have fun with or without Sarah. We just have to.”
Staring through the side window, a deep-blue summer sky flickered between pine trees covered in kudzu. Sarah’s car passed on the right. I turned the other way.
Off the freeway, we headed east and then south down a two lane road through sleepy little towns one after the other. Twenty minutes later, I leaned forward between the front seats, “Wow. Look.”
Branches from gigantic live oak trees slanted towards the middle of the street. The trees looked as though they were trying to touch each other and some did. They reminded me of my cozy canopy bed where Sarah and I had spent many nights, giggling and whispering. But this canopy was made of tree limbs in different shades of green, dripping with grayish, Spanish moss. The moss hung like ghostly long arms swinging in the wind.
“This is kind of spooky beautiful. It’s like being in a green tunnel.” I cracked my window.
A whiff of salty ocean filled the car. Sydney lifted his head as the trees whizzed by. His nose twitched. “We’re getting close, Syd.” He squeezed into the same space with me and gazed out the front window.
Suddenly, the trees disappeared. The cloudless sky stretched with no end in sight. Pelicans flew in an upside down, V formation. On both sides of the road, squiggly tidal creeks flowed through green marshlands. White birds with skinny legs stood statue-still in the shimmering water. This was a place I’d only seen in postcards.
Pelicans flew in an upside down, V formation. On both sides of the road, squiggly tidal creeks flowed through green marshlands. White birds with skinny legs stood statue-still in the shimmering water. This was a place I’d only seen in postcards.
Sheri, originally from California, moved to South Carolina with her husband, two children and a Siamese cat. Soon they adopted their first rescue dog who influenced their need to continue living with dogs. Sheri taught a multi-handicapped Special Ed class, and then a GED-parenting class, which included home visits. Because of her love of reading, Sheri found unusual ways to encourage children to read. After her rescue of a difficult dog, Sheri enrolled in dog classes to change his behavior. Her dream of writing, Seven Days to Goodbye, came from the culmination of her beach experiences, her understanding of behaviors, and from research with PAALS, a service dog organization.
After reading this question, I decided to share something funny. Part of my personality is to fix problems. I taught special ed. The fun part of my job was to discover ways to unlock the brains of children who were built differently. Once I found their learning style, it was a joy to see them progress. A big part of their learning came with changing their behavior.
I only used positive reinforcement. If a child needed to stand while he worked, I’d let him stand next to his desk. I only rewarded my students with positive comments and ignored their inattention or ways of trying to get negative attention. It is definitely harder to ignore bad behavior, but it is wonderful when the student watches others getting treats or pats on the shoulder for doing what they were asked to do. It didn’t take long for my students to want my attention and learn to control themselves.
This part of me carried over to other areas of my life.
One snowy day, a black Lab puppy roamed into our neighborhood with three puncture wounds on his torso. Ice prevented my husband and I from getting him to the vet’s office. He was very hungry and sweet. We kept him in the garage, until we knew if he was safe with our young Aussie.
The next week we took our adopted Lab, Jake, to the vet’s office. His wounds were treated over a few weeks, and we watched Jake grow. After our snow days, our daughter had begged to take Jake with her, back to college. He was around, six-months-old, and full of puppy mischief. Not a good idea for an apartment.
The first few weeks, if Jake was left alone outside, he ate the tongue out of my husband’s work boots, he up-rooted mature plants, leaving giant holes, and ate the electric wires on the boat trailer and the wires to the garage door opener.
Out of desperation, I remembered a suggestion from a dog trainer that would not be negative, but might detour destruction.
My husband blew up balloons outside on our driveway. When he popped them, I’d scream. This was to frighten Jake from the balloons. We taped the colored balloons inside every azalea bush, around electric wires on the boat trailer, the eyes for the garage door opener, and the work bench.
Friends came over and laughed at our colorful decorations.
These balloons detoured Jake for almost a week. I’d walk around the yard and tell Jake, “What a good boy! No plants.” He’d glance at the plant and blink. He was smart enough to understand.
But once the air seeped out, Jake ripped the balloons from the tape and ate them. We had to be quicker. We inspected the balloons daily and replaced them. He learned to change his behavior from our expectations and loving attention. He never was hit or abused.
Jake lived a long, wonderful life. We did not give up on him, and found ways to entertain him until he learned self-control.