Once upon a time there was a husband who wanted a dog. The wife said “There’s no way in the world I am adding a dog to my responsibilities right now. The kids are too little and you are deployed too often. This is not the best time for us.” And so the conversation was put on the shelf.
Later there was a husband and some kids who wanted a dog. The mother said “We are in a rental house and probably moving soon so this is not the best time for us.” And so the conversation was tabled. (But the husband whispered to his children “If we ever return to California, we can get a dog.”)
Then the family returned to California. “Hooray, we can get a dog!” shouted the children. But the mother pouted in the corner because this was NOT THE BEST TIME.
“When is the best time?” the father asked.
“After Thanksgiving!” the mother replied.
“After Christmas!” she said later.
“After we finish our house remodel!” she added in January.
The exasperated father finally said “It seems like you are delaying this entire thing!”
“That is correct.” she admitted.
Because the truth is this mother didn’t actually like animals. Sure, her favorite tv show was “Crikey” but that’s because she loved Steve Irwin and wanted to be sure his kids were emotionally stable (and maybe she had a mom crush on his son, Robert). Watching the Animal Planet does not automatically translate into the desire to cohabitate with a furry beast. The responsibility, the dirty mess, the lack of freedom. Does this mother sacrifice herself or crush the souls of her children? She found herself in a great conundrum.
Shocking surprise, THIS WOMAN WAS ME.
In my marriage, my husband is the Dreamer and I am the Realist (otherwise affectionately known as “pessimist” or “wet blanket”). He adds spontaneity to our family and I come behind to decipher the onslaught of details (often complaining). Over and over he said “Our kids are going to love a dog!” And while I agreed, I couldn’t get past the dirty details- the shedding, the mess, the sleepless nights, the discipline, the years of responsibility, most of which would fall on my shoulders as the kids went to school and he went to work, or worse, deployed for six months. But he and the kids wore me down DAY. AFTER DAY. AFTER DAY. I found my language subtly changing to a “Maybe” and then “If you can find a dog that doesn’t shed” and then finally a declarative “FINE. WHATEVER.”
With gusto and enthusiasm, my husband rushed to fulfill my children’s dreams, scanned the local shelters and then turned to the dark world of online puppy ads. The COVID-19 puppy shortage is a real thing and, unfortunately, dishonest people noticed.
“I have puppies but my mother just died so I move to Idaho. I send you the puppies if you wire me money.” Umm… No.
“I have puppy but husband died so I move to San Diego. I ship puppy if you send me money.” Umm…No.
“I am electrical engineer and very busy. I have had a death in the family but can send you the puppy.” NO!!! (Is the world one big pool of criminals??)
I kid you not, there was a fourth person. We went to a woman’s house, selected a puppy, named it “Winston” and planned to return the following weekend to adopt him. Then five days later the woman texted “My parents died in the one hundred car pileup in Texas so we will contact you later.” We never heard from her again but she was quick to respond to my undercover teen (and news reports didn’t corroborate her story). All I could picture was Buddy the Elf narrowing his eyes and saying “You sit on a throne of LIES.” All I can say now is: if one is going to lie about puppies and make little kids cry then be warned. God is watching you, Karolina Puppy Scammer.
So as my children sat in our living room, shedding their tears and childhood innocence that fateful day, I laid on the floor like a beaten horse and said “WHY ON EARTH ARE WE DOING THIS??” But my husband declared “Kim- you are going to love this dog someday.” He pressed onward again, found a breeder online who had one more puppy available and exclaimed that we could hop in the car RIGHT NOW to get her. With enough passive-aggression to fuel the state of California, I sat in silence as we drove an hour to this new family’s house. WHY ON EARTH ARE WE DOING THIS??? I thought over and over and maybe voiced to everyone in the car. This was going to ruin my life. (I wonder in hindsight if I should have majored in drama in college?)
That afternoon we adopted a seven-week old yellow, shedding, Labrador puppy. (Well, technically, she is “champagne” color because we are that fancy.) Her panicked yelping and whimpering in her new crate caused my tender-hearted children to finally emotionally collapse in the car so we spent our return trip home listening to the sobbing hearts of both humans and beast. Stick a fork in us because we were DONE.
The rest of the evening was a blur of emotion- shock over the Queen of Lies and the loss of “Winston”, and continued shock that we adopted a second puppy who now lived in our kitchen. A living, shedding, messy, feral toddler that I had tried to avoid for years. As I sat in numbed silence a friend texted me and said “You got a lab! We loved our lab! She lived for fourteen years!!” I began mentally calculating the length of time before us, but was interrupted by my teen’s response- “Oh good!! My own children will get to meet her!” Dear Jesus help me, I thought. I will be caring for this lassie until I am a gray-haired grandmother.
And so began our life with our California dog, befittingly named “Cali”. The first month was not my personal best; Baby was put in a corner and lashed out. I might have inappropriately yelled at my family for bringing about this misfortune (#dramatic). I might have rolled my eyes a million times and cried as the wee beastie attacked my legs each morning with her razor sharp puppy canines. I might have wished that the Irwins lived closer so I could send Cali to the Zoo with visitation rights on the weekends. But I did recall that my first month of motherhood was equally shocking and painful and filled with questions about my future. It seems I have a hard time transitioning. 😉
As time progressed, ever so slowly, this beast eventually began to melt my frozen heart. When I entered the puppy zone each morning she started peeing with excitement because YOU ARE THE BEST AND ALL I ASK IN LIFE IS TO BE WITH YOU!! When I opened the freezer she enthusiastically joined my search for ice because IT’S SO COLD AND CRUNCHY AND I LOOOOOVE IT!! If I opened the dishwasher she magically appeared because DO I SMELL CHICKEN OR PEANUT BUTTER ON THESE PLATES IT IS GLORIOUS!! If she cleverly escaped our puppy barriers and raced down our hallway with the wind blowing in her jowls, I couldn’t help but laugh. Her zest for life was contagious. And honestly, after a year of COVID weirdness and perpetual Groundhogs Day, I found myself smiling more often.
We are now three months into this journey with our Cali-girl and here comes the time when I humbly admit it: MY HUSBAND WAS RIGHT. It’s impossible not to love this hilarious dog. She manically chases the water hose, barks at deer antlers and runs away with kitchen towels like a bandit stealing a truckload of gold. Any human or animal within fifty feet is a friend and anything that can fit into her mouth is a potential energy source. I LOVE FOOD SO MUCH AND WANT IT ALL THE TIME AND WILL EAT MY MEAL IN 2.4 SECONDS WHEN IS MY NEXT ONE?? OH WAIT- A KITCHEN CABINET! I CAN CHEW ON THAT FOR A WHILE…
While hilarious, it’s not perfection. There is hair everywhere, my new floors are filthy and she’s tried digging multiple holes to China in our backyard. But despite the growing pains, our family has changed for the better. One of my children finally overcame her deathly fear of dogs after almost a decade of real and vivid terror. Another has shown untapped courage and responsibility, learning to discipline and control our new family member. Another has overflowed with motherly affection for this animal but also learned that dogs require significant time and energy. (We remind her that human babies demand even more attention than puppies and SHE GETS IT NOW.)
What about me? I have learned a few things, too.
1) Sometimes us Realists need to give the Dreamers a chance. 🙂 Sometimes the details might not make sense but the dream is still valid and doable and a potential vessel of joy for our children. Sometimes we need to let go of the reigns for a minute and at least TRY. Maybe the scenario might not always work, but it might be more successful than we think! (And maybe don’t yell at your family or exude passive-aggression during the trial period.)
2) I married the right person. I have forgiven my husband for buying a puppy and he has forgiven me for acting like a lunatic.
3) I do like some animals. In fact, against all odds, I am even capable of adoring them. ❤️ (Well, sometimes. Mostly when they are tired. And not eating my kitchen chairs or digging WWII trenches on my property. 😉)
Hugs to all the other fur babies out there. Have a great week friends!