From the time he was born, Kayleb has been battling cystic fibrosis. A progressive genetic disease, cystic fibrosis causes chronic lung infections and limits the ability to breathe. For Kayleb, a cystic fibrosis diagnosis has required daily medications and vest therapy, frequent trips to cystic fibrosis clinic, and avoiding any potential environmental irritants.
Since Kayleb has an allergy to dogs, this meant that his family was unable to adopt a puppy --until his doctor cleared him to own a hypoallergenic dog. Kayleb didn’t have to think about what his wish would be for even a moment; he had wanted a dog his entire life but had been unable to have one until now—without hesitation, Kayleb wished for a hypoallergenic puppy.
Since bringing their Swiss Bernedoodle, puppy, Kevin, into their home, Kayleb and his family have experienced a “spontaneous joy” unlike anything else. “Kevin does work that parents can’t do, no matter how hard we try,” says Kayleb’s Mom, Ellen. “I keep saying it’s joy and balance, but that’s not even a big enough thing to say. It’s love happening all of the time.” Kevin provides Kayleb, his parents, and his friends and family with a special, irreplaceable kind of therapy. According to his mom Kevin helps Kayleb to “chill out” in a way that nothing else can. “Every time I see him, he makes me laugh,” says Kayleb.
For Kayleb and his family this wish goes far beyond one day, a trip, or a special place or object. Kayleb’s wish—Kevin—is with them every day, surrounding them always with an exuberant, yet calming, energy.
As Kayleb gets older, dealing with cystic fibrosis becomes more complicated. While continuing to live with the physical problems caused by cystic fibrosis and daily treatment, Kayleb has also had to cope with typical teen problems and has struggled with depression, but Kevin makes all of this easier to endure. “Chronic illness is always there. It’s continual, your brain is always thinking about it,” says Ellen. “We’re still doing all the emotional processing that comes with cystic fibrosis, but now with Kevin, there’s this balance.” When Kayleb has to sit down to do vest therapy, Kevin can be found lying right at his feet, every single time. “Kevin loves the vest,” says Ellen. Kevin is there to lend support when Kayleb’s medical condition is concerning and when treatments and appointments are draining, but he is also there when the family needs something else to put their attention and energy into.
“I think most parents are always on their kids about something, but with chronic illness, it’s ‘Did you take your meds?’ instead of the normal stuff. Before Kevin, the majority of our conversations were about cystic fibrosis, but now there’s something else to focus on,” says Kayleb’s Mom. “The peace that he brings us, we didn’t know that as parents we were going to get that too.”
Kayleb found out his wish was being granted from the wheel of a tugboat at the Parade of Lights in Portland. He was able to drive the boat himself, with some convincing, and when they shone a light from the boat on the shore, dozens of people were holding signs that read: “Kayleb, Your Puppy Wish is Granted.” A few weeks later, the family headed to the breeder to choose Kayleb’s puppy. They traveled via limousine, which Ellen describes as a “traveling room of awesome fun” and arrived to a room full of puppies for Kayleb to choose from. When it was clear that a certain little puppy and Kayleb had a special connection, he picked the name “Kevin” on the spot and they took their new family member home.
“There was a really special feeling in the air. We felt really cherished. We were excited, and everyone else was just as excited to be helping to make Kayleb’s wish come true, and that meant a whole lot to us.”
Following Kayleb’s wish, his wish granters had a book of photos made to commemorate the day. When Kayleb first got it he wouldn’t let anyone else see it and went straight to his room to clear everything off of his bookshelf, to stand the book up on top in a place of honor. For his eighth-grade graduation, the picture that Kayleb chose to use as his current photo was a picture of him and Kevin. Kevin helps Kayleb get through everyday life, making his ability to joyfully live in the moment so much more available to him.
When K and K are living their best lives together, Ellen can often be heard saying, “There’s severe adoration happening here!”
Written By: Marie Walton