Dear Mrs. Bluth,
We are faced with a major dilemma and don’t know how to resolve it, so if you can reach into your magic bag of solutions, we would be most grateful, as it is tearing our family apart.
While we lived out of town, we were very close with both my parents and my in-laws. We would visit for the chaggim and special occasions. Our children always looked forward to seeing them. We were so happy when my husband was offered a position that meant moving back to New York where our visits with them all could be more frequent.
Recently, our five-year-old son was hit in the head during a baseball game. Unfortunately, the side effect of that injury is frequent seizures that can happen numerous times. Our medical team suggested we get a service dog that would be trained to warn us when they take place so that immediate medical help could be implemented.
This being a matter of life and death, we didn’t even think to ask anyone’s opinion, and went ahead when a dog became available. Kalev has saved Benny’s life on more than one occasion – even being helpful to his playgroup morah. He is the most gentle and most docile creature and poses no threat or issue to anyone.
However, the first time my in-laws came to visit after Kalev joined our family, they were horrified. They told us they would not be coming to our house again and that we could not bring Kalev with us to their house. Benny, who happened to overhear, was devastated. He loves his grandparent sand Kalev.
Although we tried to explain that Kalev was a life-saving tool for Benny, there was no convincing them. We explained to Benny that his grandparents weren’t angry with him or disliked Kalev, they just needed some time to get used to this arrangement.
Mrs. Bluth, it is now seven months and nothing has changed. They don’t extend any invitations for us to come visit them, even when there are simchos in their home, unless we leave our children home with Kalev and a sitter, and they won’t come to visit us unless we put Kalev in the basement, something we cannot and will not do. My older kids feel cut off from their cousins and other family because they have to stay home and are now angry with their grandparents.
I am so afraid that this will become a deep-rooted dislike for their grandparents that may never heal. We are avid readers of your column and see how much you have helped others. We are desperate for any solution you could suggest.
I truly empathize with you, and understand the pain and confusion you and your family feel. Some people are so blinded by what they have been brought up to believe that they cannot see the refuah for what it is. Your in-laws seem to see the dog as an invalidation of their beliefs rather than a very special creature specifically trained to protect their ailing grandchild’s life. I will not go further than to say that what they are doing is a far greater sin than they perceive, and that the alienation they are causing may bring them great disappointment and regret in the future.
Hodu l’Hashem that we live in such miraculous times. As you said, Kalev is not just a dog dependent on you for his own care, sustenance and upkeep; he is a lifeline for your child, a caretaker and a provider of comfort for your family. No human being can be on guard 24 hours a day, but service animals are, and countless lives are saved every day under their watchful and loyal care.
There is little I can offer you in the way of putting an end to your in-laws’ ignorance and their heartless attitude towards your family – at this time, Kalev is of greater worth, in my estimation. Maybe send your in-laws this column.
I wish Benny a full and speedy refuah shlaimah b’karov, and for Kalev a long and healthy life so that he can go on helping those who need his loyal, caring and vital, life saving services.