Butterfly grew up with food intolerances and was diagnosed with ADHD, Asperger's
Syndrome, and learning difficulties. Now she struggles with OCDs.
This is the story of how we have faced these challenges.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Because these critters figure in the story yet to come, I'm going to interrupt the time-line of this to talk about animals, which have been a significant part of Butterfly's life.


Butterfly always wanted a pet, but there were a couple of issues. One was her sometimes out-of-control temper. If that was scary for us, as it sometimes was, I had to assume a small creature would not take to it. Another was the cost of pets. We were on a budget and the expense that comes with pet ownership really didn't work. She wanted a dog, but that wasn't happening. Butterfly bugged and bugged for a pet though, so I agreed to a fish.

Of course, that can be costly too if you do the whole aquarium thing, but we started off small with one Beta fish, which can live quite comfortably in a bowl, as long as you feed it and keep the water fresh. Butterfly named her fish, Kosta. It was a pretty little thing, and it lasted a couple of months. Then one day, Butterfly came out of her room and told me that Kosta was just floating in his container. I sort of recommend a fish as a starting place for any kid interested in a pet. Yes, it's inevitable that the fish will die. But it's an easy introduction to the concept of responsibility for a kid, because the fish does have to be taken care of. It's also an easier first experience with the concept of death. I mean, easier than a relative or friend. The only problem was, after the demise of her fish, it really wasn't long before Butterfly was bugging again for a pet.

When talk of a dog started up again, I suggested a cat. They are so much easier to care for and I knew full well who'd wind up looking after a dog. A niece's cat had just had a litter and she was looking for homes for the kittens. Bud's uncle brought one from her cousin's place. Butterfly had already decided to name the kitten Tigger. It turned out to be a wee calico, and Tigger it was. She was a skinny, skittish thing. I played with her at night before bed so she wouldn't climb the curtains. And a few times I rescued her when Butterfly went to sleep with an arm around her and she couldn't move.


Butterfly was quite taken with Tigger, but somehow the little thing didn't return the admiration. In fact, Tigger grew increasingly frightened of Bud. Poor cat couldn't handle Bud's rough affection or the shrieking that was part of her reactions. Tigger was good at hiding in one of a variety of hidey holes in the house. So a couple of summers later, Butterfly was still thinking pet ~ one that she could love, her way. She wanted a grey kitten she'd seen in the local pet store. Now, this store was giving the kittens away, but what with shots and veterinary expenses, there's no such thing as a free pet. We had been planning to send Butterfly to a science day camp for a week or so, and that was going to cost around $300. I figured a kitten would actually cost about the same. Hubby and I decided it was time for Butterfly to learn to make a decision, so we gave her the choice: camp, or kitten? I was actually a little surprised that she picked the kitten. But, enter cat #2, Pepper.

Of course, Tigger did not take to the intruder, but Pepper gradually won her over by teasing her. Pepper was a character though. She obviously had not been that well cared for as a kitten, because she pounced on anything that fell from the table, including a piece of lettuce. And she could make a "nest" out of a plastic grocery bag, so she was surrounded on all sides by a layer of bag. After she got acceptance from Tigger, she would be grooming her, and when Tigger was quite comfortable with the attention, Pep would suddenly haul off and bite her tail. Then they'd be off in a flurry of fur. One moment they'd be sharing a basket, the next they'd be rolling around in a snarling protest of fur and claws. Quite a pair. But Pepper didn't mind being handled by Butterfly, so she finally had a pet tough enough for her.


Butterfly loved horses. Many of her favourite books and stories were about horses, she had pictures of horses in her room, and she kept asking to learn how to ride. For a long time, this was something we really couldn't afford. But when Bud got into her teens, I took her to a local stable and went in to talk with the owner. She was a very nice woman and a former school teacher I'll call Marj. After chatting with Marj for awhile, I got comfortable enough to mention Butterfly's challenges, as well as some of her disappointments. I told her that I'd like Bud to try some riding lessons. Marj said that she'd teach Butterfly herself and we arranged for a first lesson, agreeing to just see how it was going to go.

Well the first couple of lessons went well enough. Bud was a little afraid, being high up on a huge animal, but she was obviously determined to ride. Unfortunately Marj had some things come up, so she asked her neighbour to take a lesson with Butterfly. The morning of the lesson, Bud was up and we were getting ready to go when the phone rang. It was this woman, and basically, she gave me Hell. We weren't late or anything, and we had never missed a lesson, but there she was on the phone demanding to know if we were going to show up, because she didn't want to be standing around in a cold stable waiting for us. I told her to just forget it. A couple of days later I called Marj who immediately asked why we missed the lesson. I told her the last thing Butterfly needed was to be given a riding lesson by an angry, resentful woman we'd never even met. Marj was apologetic. Apparently she knew this woman could be moody. I told her she just wouldn't do.

But Marj's mom was ill so Marj wouldn't be able to follow through on Bud's lessons. She told me she had asked a girl closer to Bud's age to be Bud's riding coach. The girl had a few years experience and Marj thought it would be a good match. Indeed, it worked out fine at first, until the girl wanted Bud to get past a canter and gallop on the horse. But Butterfly wasn't ready yet. That's when something changed in the girl's attitude. She started showing off by being rough on some of the horses. I watched a little aghast as this girl whacked one particularly lovely, even-tempered horse around. She insisted it would not hurt the horse, but this same horse, that was a favourite of Bud's and had been a gentle mount, was suddenly deemed unfit for new students a while later, because it had become rebellious. Then, even though there were rags for cleaning the bridles, this girl made Butterfly use the front of her shirt. I was waiting for Bud in the parkng area, and she came out of the stable very upset. We had planned to go out after her lesson, but had to return home so Bud could change. I was not impresssed.

Marj wasn't around, so I decided to go through with a birthday trail ride I'd arranged for Butterfly. I asked a bunch of the other girls at the stable to go along too. I was sure I'd made it plain that it was a birthday treat ~ for fun. But this young coach turned it into a lesson, not only charging me a lesson fee on top of the trail ride fee, but threatening Butterfly all through the ride that she wouldn't get any more trail rides if she didn't keep her heels down. A couple of the other girls confirmed this. So, Bud's riding coach had turned out to be a bully. Great.

Enough was enough, but surprisingly, she's the one who dropped Butterfly, calling one evening to say she didn't want to coach Bud anymore. I don't know... maybe she thought nothing would be said if she got rid of us. But I finally got hold of Marj and told her the girl had dropped Butterfly. She was shocked. It was simply not the girl's place to drop one of the stable's customers. Then I told her what had been going on. Marj was again apologetic, but I told her we wouldn't be back. I remained friendly with Marj, taking her some of my jellies in exchange for some of her rhubarb a few times, but Bud's love of horses had turned into a painful and disappointing experience and it was time to step back for a bit.

Butterfly could be crazy in reaction at home, but with others, she bottled up her feelings because she had a difficult time knowing how to respond to a situation. I don't know what it is with some people, that faced with someone who's docile and unsure of themselves, they just get mean. It was something that happened to Butterfly a few times. People would eventually notice she was different and didn't say much, no matter what they said or did, so they'd start being cruel. While Butterfly still expresses her admiration for horses from time to time, she just doesn't want to deal with people in order to get near one again.

The Dog

Yes, I finally gave in. Butterfly just kept on bugging for a dog. When she started talking about a golden retriever, I had a mental image of everything on the coffee table flying across the room with one swish of its tail. A big dog in our little cottage? No way. But when Hubby started talking about a husky, I knew I had to do something. So I took Butterfly to see some cockapoo pups. There was a little ball of white fluff that seemed about right, so I had Bud pick him up and hold him all the way home. He peed on her. She named him Sugar Cookie. They had bonded.

The cats were not happy, but they eventually got used to him being around, and learned that picking on him would not be tolerated. That little dog is devoted to Butterfly, but typical of any teen I guess, she actually doesn't pay that much attention to him. Oh, she loves him, cuddles him and takes him out at night, and he sleeps on the foot of her bed, but just as I suspected, most of his care comes from Hubby and me. Oh well, he is cute.


  1. We have had our share of beta fish too.. including the one still in the bowl in the kitchen :) Hamsters were next, and now 2 bunnies.

    I know JUST what you mean about people being cruel. It makes my throat tighten to think about it and it happens FAR too often. :( That really stinks about the riding lessons. Goose rides through a hippotherapy program for handicapped kids. I was shocked that she was able to get in, but it has been so wonderful for her and really strengthened her, as well as motivated her! I wonder if there is anything like this near you?

  2. Yeah, I don't know why some people think the appropriate response to someone who's different is to be pushy, suspicious, or just plain mean, but it has happened all too often. It's what makes me question who is really the socially needy people in our world. I honestly think Bud has fewer challenges than some of the supposedly "normal" people out there.

    There was no program like that here.. wish there had been because then I'm sure nothing like this would have happened. But as I've told her, as long as she's walkin' around, it's never too late to try riding again. It's something she can always pursue as an adult. :)