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Society Tails: Adopted dog helps little girl overcome bedtime stress

By Joe Elmore

As we enter the new year and also the third year of the pandemic, I want to relate an adoption love story that I hope brings some joy into your day. I also hope that it will inspire you to make room in your hearts and homes for an animal from Charleston Animal Society.

Coraline has autism and had struggled with sleep for years — until her family fostered a dog named Margo. With her comforting presence, Margo helped Coraline navigate a stress-free bedtime routine and gave her reassurance so she could sleep soundly through the night.

The following story is from the father, Aldwin Roman, who is also the vice president of Operations and Strategy at the Animal Society.

I didn’t bring Margo and her puppy home for me or my wife. Rather, I did it for our two daughters. I wanted them to see and experience watching a mom care for her puppy. At first, there was nothing special or out of the ordinary about fostering Margo and her puppy. My wife and I had fostered animals many times before for Charleston Animal Society.

If Margo wasn’t with her puppy, she was with my daughter Coraline. They would snuggle to watch TV and if Coraline was hurt, stressed or anxious, she would call for Margo. The two of them even developed a little routine. Every night, Coraline would call for Margo from her bed, and Margo would rush over, jump on the bed, burrow under the covers, press herself up against Coraline and go right to sleep. We thought it was cute, but it turned out to be much more.

You see, Coraline isn’t like every other girl her age. She has autism. Most people who meet her won’t realize it because autism isn’t what everybody thinks it is. Coraline’s struggles often get dismissed as this or that. But for me and my wife, our life revolves around managing Coraline’s diagnosis.

Sleep was a big challenge. Coraline has struggled with sleeping since birth. She didn’t sleep through the night until she was six, and even then, only sometimes. Falling asleep takes her several hours of tossing and turning, not being able to turn off her brain. She would wake up multiple times a night, sometimes spending half the night awake. Every night was a gauntlet for us.

If we were lucky, she was asleep by 11 p.m., then one of us would have to get up multiple times to comfort Coraline because she was scared or because she couldn’t fall back to sleep. During the day, she was exhausted from not sleeping, which would affect her mood and everything she did. It was a vicious cycle that we tried everything to break. And then somehow, a little dog named Margo made almost all of it go away overnight.

The relationship between Margo and Coraline also seemed reciprocal. At first, Margo was scared of people, but Coraline helped her overcome her fears. Margo gave Coraline a sense of comfort at night that we had never been able to give her. Margo would spend the whole night with Coraline, either under the covers or with her head on the pillow sleeping right alongside her. In the middle of the night or in the early morning when Coraline would wake up, she would snuggle Margo and pull her close and it would help her fall back asleep.

Thanks to Margo, our daughter was sleeping through the night regularly. And she wasn’t taking as long to fall asleep, either. It was amazing and we couldn’t believe it. This little shy and skittish shelter dog was helping our daughter in a whole new way that we had never been able to.

This beautifully touching story may be viewed in video on YouTube at

Happy New Year and wishing you a safe, healthy, and wonderful 2022 from all of the Charleston Animal Society family.

Joe Elmore is executive director of the Charleston Animal Society.


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