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How a puppy helped the family of a child with ADHD

BY READERS DIGEST

23rd Mar 2023 Life

How a puppy helped the family of a child with ADHD

When Michelle Foulia and her family went to Greece, they didn't know they would return to the UK with a rescue puppy, as insisted on by her son Alex—whose ADHD the family were in the process of understanding at the time

In 2015, my husband, our three children, and I were living in Northern Greece and fostering two sisters, then aged seven and 11. On September 11, 2015, I was informed about an abandoned puppy at a local beach and agreed to go and see the puppy with the intention of helping rehome it. However, the moment I saw her, I knew she was meant to be ours and that's how Poppy became our eighth family member. 

A few months later, we decided to move back to the UK, which marked the nightmare of finding a home for Poppy or finding a way to bring her back to the UK with us. It seemed that every obstacle was thrown at us, but each one was followed by a miracle, resulting in Poppy's journey to the UK where we were reunited, and as they say, the rest is history.

"We decided to move back to the UK, which started the nightmare of finding a home for Poppy or finding a way to bring her back with us"

While all this was going on, we were also in the process of understanding our son's ADHD and SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) diagnosis, while navigating life around his challenges. Our lives were profoundly changed, and this inspired me to create a children's book—part story and part journal—to help other children, their parents, teachers, and extended families to understand ADHD, to identify the child's gifts, and learn useful tools to manage it.

I decided to also use the book to raise funds for the two charities which helped us get Poppy home (Compassion for Greek Paws and Greek Animal Rescue), as well as a friend's therapy farm in North Wales.

Below are excerpts from different parts of the book. The book is written in dyslexia-friendly font and has simple graphite illustrations providing a calming, easy on eyes, experience. 

Michelle and her Greek rescue puppy PoppyMichelle and her Greek rescue puppy, Poppy

Alex is forced to go on holiday despite his protests

He felt surrendered to his fate. There was nothing more he could do about it. He was going on this holiday whether he liked it or not.

Since moving to a new house with his family a few months before, ten-year-old Alex worked hard to make his room just how he liked it.

Now he would have to deal with bright sunshine, which made his eyes hurt, itchy sand and scratchy bedding, and he couldn't have his video game console or comfy chair. Why did his family not understand how important those things were to him? He had heard his mum talking to his dad a couple of days before, after another storming-out moment. She said that she sometimes found it hard to deal with his ADHD.

"ADHD. Alex hated these letters. He felt like someone had a huge sticker and plonked it on his forehead, like the only thing that defined him was his disorder"

ADHD. Four letters for four long words.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Alex hated these letters. He felt like someone had a huge sticker and plonked it straight on his forehead, like the only thing that defined him was his disorder. It seemed to explain how he struggled to sit still for long periods, concentrate on more than one thing at a time or pay attention to instructions. He also disliked the feeling of labels, certain fabrics, loud noises, bright lights, and even some foods that felt strange in his mouth. The word “disorder” made him feel like there was something wrong with him, that he was different, that he wasn’t “normal or “in order”.

The family arrive at their holiday apartment

Alex’s senses came alive all at once, processing the various smells, sounds, and feelings. ADHD can make a person feel more intensely, and Alex was trying to see, hear and feel everything all at the same time. The irresistible saltiness of the sea entered his nostrils as he took in a big breath.

Mum shares her struggle of Alex’s ADHD with Nana Grace

“I know, Mum, I know. But sometimes, I just can’t find the energy or strength. I love him so much, I love everything about him, his kindness, his sensitive heart, his fiery spirit, but I find it hard to love his ADHD.

“Ah, but sweetie, all those things you just mentioned are part of his ADHD. In fact, they are all part of who Alex is!” Mum looked up at Nana Grace as if she had said something profound. 

“I have never thought of it like that.

Alex meets Poppy at the restaurant on the beach

Alex holding the abandoned puppy Poppy
Alex holding the abandoned puppy, Poppy

Alex took a sausage from one of the main plates in the middle of the table. He held it under the table and made a gentle clicking noise with his tongue, hoping to catch the puppy’s attention. The bigger dogs were so busy snarling at each other that they did not hear him, but the puppy did. It turned its head around and immediately spotted the tasty sausage in his hand.

Slowly and nervously, it approached him, weaving through tables and chairs and other diners. Once under the table, it gently reached over and grabbed the sausage. As soon as it was securely in its mouth, it seemed to disappear down the
puppy’s throat in two seconds flat! The puppy then reached over and licked Alex’s fingers.

The restaurant owner shares with the family

“Well, my father owned this restaurant and always fed the strays. He would say that he was blessed to have the opportunity to own his restaurant and provide for his family, so the least he could do was to help someone else, in this case, the stray dogs. Now I run the restaurant and continue to feed them. They are often abandoned here by people who bought them as cute puppies and then thought that they were hard work, so dumped them here on the beach.”

The family take care of the injured puppy while Alex is determined to get her back to England

Alex couldn’t control himself any longer and blurted out. “We’ll look after her, Mr Takis, won’t we, Mum, Dad? We’ll take her to our apartment and keep her safe until her leg heals!”

The conundrum

Yet this little dog had made its way into Alex’s heart and was slowly making its way into the hearts of the whole family. But, even if she relented and wanted to take the puppy back to England, how on earth were they going to find the money to do it?

And with so many shelters back in England full of beautiful, wonderful dogs needing homes, were they even justified in taking a dog from this country back to theirs?

After many challenges, some good news

“Well, Alex, we gave it our best. We put up a good fight, and we sure didn’t give up.

"'Well, Alex, we gave it our best shot'. Alex's eyes welled up, anticipating the bad news. 'And it was all worth it!' Mum squealed. 'Poppy is coming home'"

Alex's eyes welled up, anticipating the bad news he was now expecting. “And it was all worth it!” Mum squealed, jumping up and down. Poppy is coming home.”

Miracles can happen

Poppy arriving home on the day of her rescue
Poppy arriving home on the day of her rescue

Naturally, they made their way to the taverna and shared the news with Mr Takis, who did not look surprised.

“I told you, my friends,” he said, “miracles can happen, even for a little dog.”

Poppy's Miracle book cover
 

Poppy's Miracle is available through Amazon, or you can email me directly at Michelle@wordsforhealing.org to order a signed copy. You can find further info about me or contact me through my website wordsforhealing.org

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