As her graduation day approached, I saw Ava walking around the kitchen with something in her hand. When I finally asked what was that she was carrying, she said, "Something that will make me cry when I look at it after graduation." It was a picture of her class, at their field trip to the fire station. In the picture she's at Ms V's side, with a grin on her face and two fingers stuck up in a "peace" sign.
That was the first indication we had that she was going to miss her two days a week in Ms V's class. During the year she had had her ups and downs with it, sometimes really not wanting to go, but during these final weeks she seemed to feel a deeper sense of belonging to the class and the school. She had gone on field trips on the school bus without us and looked forward to library every Thursday - she was rock solid with school.
Gram and Gramp went with us to the Kindergarten orientation meeting in the school cafeteria, where all the future kindergartners were taken in groups on a school bus ride. Ava confidently marched up to join the line for her bus ride and, with only a little glance back and a small wave, went off to the buses while we remained behind to listen to the principal and the guidance counselor and the school nurse describe school life and what to expect during the coming year.
The graduation itself was on Weds night, June 22, and Ava was very excited about it. Ms V had planned a special event for the parents, and the kids had been practicing for days. Once again, Gram and Gramp attended, first coming to the house so they could see the chickens - Ava handed "Leaf" to Gram and poor Gram got chicken poop on her sweater... Gram's had a lot of that stuff happen to her over the years, usually by babies, so she was unfazed and, after a little clean-up, we headed over to the school.
Ava went to her classroom while we went to the cafeteria to get ready for the show, being handed a "program" on our way in. After a suitable wait, the little ones paraded in - all of them, not just the kindergarten-bound kids - and up onto the stage. The stage!! Ava hadn't told me they'd be going on stage - I knew she must be very excited about it. Sure enough, she was smiling and waving and just as proud and happy as she could be. The kids did some singing, and then Ms V went down the line asking them what they wanted to be when they grew up. ..."Princess" - "Spiderman" - "Hair dresser"... - and when the mic got in front of Ava, she leaned forward and in a loud, clear voice said, "DOCTOR!" That got some laughs and clapping from the audience. Then it was time to receive diplomas and have refreshments.
I had gone into the classroom while the kids were getting ready in order to give Ms V and Ms Kelly each a bottle of our homemade elderberry wine (discretely placed in gift bags), and had the chance to speak with Ms Kelly for a moment. Her eyes filled with tears as she told me how much she'd miss seeing Ava, and how much she had enjoyed getting to know her. I gave her a hug and told her how grateful we were to her and to Ms V for giving Ava such a beautiful, positive introduction to school. If Ava does grow up to be a doctor, no small thanks go to these two ladies.
We had told Ava that we'd get her a puppy for her graduation present. She had shown responsibility taking care of her chickens, so we felt that she was ready to take on a puppy. I had first contacted my friend Kathy, who had a new litter of Australian Shepherd pups, but then found out the prices ($650 to $1000/pup!) so we decided to see what else we could find out there. We spent Thursday afternoon going to pet stores to look for "puppy for sale" notices on the billboards, and ended up at Brooks Feed store in Brunswick. When Patrick asked the ladies at the register if they knew of any, he was told that one of their customers just happened to have a free puppy available!
He called the lady and found out that her name was Kathy, and the puppy was an Australian Shepherd!! Ava and I enjoyed the coincidence of this, and remarked on it several times on our way up to Wiscasset to check him out. We pulled into the driveway of a dilapidated old farmhouse out in the country with horses out back and chickens pecking around the yard. Kathy, in a full arm cast, came to the door and invited us in to see the 3-month-old puppy. He had a broken leg, and Kathy, with her broken arm, wasn't able to take care of him. He was in a confined area in the living room, and was very skittish and nervous. He was pretty, though - a blue merle with a cute little white spot on his forehead.
Kathy took Gaffer out back to meet the parents of the puppy and several of the dogs were brought back into the house. (Kathy is a breeder of miniature Aussies, and our little guy has papers if we care to register him at some point.) Ava played ball with the "grandmother" doggie, and really liked her. She decided she wanted the pup, so we took him home.
He's still settling in, now three weeks later. Ava and I took him to the vet for x-rays the Monday after we got him, and his cast was removed and replaced with a soft bandage. Ava was proud to show him to everyone - she had named him "Traveler" after watching him romp around with his cast on out back over the weekend. We were told to keep the bandage dry because the cast had gotten wet and the vet was worried about infection. We left the vet's with a bottle of pink liquid antibiotic, and Ava took it upon herself to dose him twice a day.
Unfortunately, it started to rain over the next few days and although we tried to protect the bandage with a medley of IV bag, saran wrap, rope and tape, it got wet. We took it off, and he's been learning to use his leg again ever since. The leg itself (right front) is smaller than the other - atrophied - and the shoulder muscle is non-existent. He's a happy little guy, though, and fast as a greyhound! He's still very shy, and terrified of Gaffer, but we're hoping that over time he settles down.
We were immediately impressed with him, though. When he's outside he stays near us - never tries to run off, and actually seems to want to "herd" us together! He's smart as a whip and comes running when he's called. He tried to chase the chickens a few times, but when told "leave it" he backs right away from them. But it's been challenging watching Ava get used to him. She's a dominant personality, and tends to be pretty hard on the little guy. We're trying to teach her that he's a baby and that she needs to have more patience with him.
She got frustrated with me the other night and said, "Gammer! This is my FIRST puppy! I've never had a puppy before, so I have to LEARN!" Fair enough, Ava. Unfortunately, at the moment he seems more comfortable with me (probably due to being raised by Kathy), and Ava gets mad about that and tries to drag him next to her - which has the opposite effect of what she really wants! As soon as she lets go of him, he runs away from her. He does love her, though, and when we're outside he romps all around her and rarely leaves her side. I think he'll be "her" dog eventually!