Part 2.

CALO didn't seem to be helping. My sister was still depressed. Still hurting. Still not connecting with anyone.

And then something changed. She decided she wanted to adopt a dog. Not all students adopt a dog; some either are unable to get permission or just aren't interested. That appeared to be the case with my sister, until this dog broke through to her in a very personal way.

The process begins with making people aware of your desire to adopt a dog. You have to obtain permission from your parents. Then you submit papers declaring your intent. The dog is released to you and you are allowed to care for it for one month. Then you submit again, stating you've cared for the dog for a month and still wish to adopt it. Then you start on a number of "intent" essays, submitted at the end of the month for the next 4 subsequent months. By the time the entire dog program is over, it's usually taken the extent of your stay. Most students do not complete the formal adoption process until their graduation day.

My sister decided she wanted a dog, and not just any dog, but a dog named Toby. She felt a connection with Toby, one that affected her deeply. Many of the dogs at CALO were spoken for, some even fought over, but for some strange reason no one wanted Toby.

No one.

When my sister asked why, she received responses like "he's crazy" or "he won't even take a leash."

My sister felt like everyone had given up on Toby. This resonated to her core. She knew what it was like to feel given up on. This is what she believed about everyone in HER life. They had given up and didn't want to try anymore. She'd been written off by them.

My sister made absolutely sure that the same wouldn't happen with this dog. She would reach out, she would care; she would be the difference. Toby would be hers. And that would be enough.

And this made all the difference. The walls came down, the shell cracked, and finally my sister came alive again. Her goals were reached of initiating and engaging. She began to respond better in therapy and get closer to people, physically and emotionally.

The transformation didn't happen overnight, but it was definitely a breakthrough - a turning point.

Likewise, my mom had her own breakthrough: Once a week my sister would have a family session via skype. My mom felt they were helpful, but not sufficient. She was trying to figure out what she could more, and then she found a book. Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control, which is two volumes; she started with volume two, because it had a chapter on self-harm. Then she read the rest, and eventually went back to the first volume. The way she found this book was she would hear about it somewhere, say to herself, I need to get that, and then forget about it. Then she'd hear about it again, and do the same thing. After about the fourth time of this book surfacing, my mom realized, oh, maybe someone's telling me this is something I need to get. And she did. And it the key she had been searching for in the guidance and insights it proffered. To my mom, CLAO doesn't give parents sufficient training. In many regards, it's parallel, but in some critical places this book goes further.

Maybe CALO really was the right place after all. :)

Stay Tuned for Part 4: Birthday Visit and Retreats

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