We have a new puppy at my house. I can’t believe it. The decision to get her was definitely one of the more thinking-with-my-heart-and-not-my-head things we’ve done in awhile - like since we got our last dog. Our puppy, Gracie, is the third dog of our marriage. Our first one came pretty soon after we arrived at Ft. Hood, Texas as newlyweds. That was back in the day when the Humane Society was called “the pound.” I showed up at the pound one afternoon, spotted a blond puppy shivering in the back of one of the kennels, and walked out with her 30 minutes later. I named her Scout after Scout Finch, and we were devoted to one another. After my kids were born, she did everything from entertaining them to helping to keep them safe. Once I tried out a new babysitter, and when I arrived home, Scout began barking and snarling at the sitter. I knew what my dog was telling me, and of course, never used that sitter again. Scout was my partner and friend, and I miss her still.
After Scout died, I didn’t really want another dog. Her final months had been emotional and I wasn’t ready, but my third son was 8 years old, and he was ready. He needed a dog to be his buddy. So, my husband and I dove in and adopted a rescue golden retriever. Buckley was the dirtiest, foulest smelling dog I’ve ever known, but he was exactly what our son needed. They spent hours and hours playing Star Wars in our backyard, and it was my memory of them playing that kept me somewhat calm whenever Buckley chewed my house to pieces or rolled in the dirt immediately after a bath. Once the vet called us on vacation to say that Buckley had chewed his way through the metal kennel. The vet thought Buckley had anxiety issues and suggested Xanax to help him out. Buckley was three years old when we got him, and it seemed he had had a troubled three years before he landed with us. We medicated him and loved him and over time we were able to reduce his medication, but he struggled with anxiety his entire life. I can’t honestly say that I loved Buckley as much as I loved Scout – he wrecked my house too much for true love to blossom, but I can honestly say that I loved how he and my son loved each other and that was enough for me. By the end of his life, Buckley became so feeble he needed my husband to carry him in and out of the house, but my husband lovingly did it because we knew Buckley was hanging on to say goodbye to his old Star Wars buddy. He hung on those few extra days, and Patrick made it home from college in time to say goodbye to his dog.
Our youngest child, our last one still home, was indelicate enough to begin lobbying for her own dog even before Buckley had passed on. My husband doesn’t really believe it, but I was against the idea. I wanted freedom from vet bills, dirty carpets, and the responsibility of owning a living being. My husband wanted freedom from my complaining about how messy dogs were. My daughter persisted, though, winning the argument on the day she came home after a rough time at school and cried that she couldn’t get through high school without a dog to hug at night.
I started peeking on petfinder.com. I figured a small breed dog wouldn’t smell too much, and if we got a puppy she would be less likely to have the kind of emotional issues that our previous dog had had. It didn’t take too long before I found her. She was a terrier mix, 8 weeks old, and the cutest dog I had ever seen in my life. I filled out the online application, but I wasn’t too hopeful. As one of my sons said, she was so cute she wouldn’t last long on the website, but out of all the applications, the rescue organization picked us. They said it was because of the part I wrote about my daughter needing a dog to hug as she went through high school. Dog people and mothers get that part completely.
Gracie is everything we hoped she would be. She is a champion at cuddling, and snuggling, and loving. She is also a champion at teething and barking, but not yet a champion at being fully house trained. But we love her anyway.
I have to admit that I wasn’t completely honest in our application to get Gracie. I said that my daughter needed a dog to snuggle to get her through high school – but I left out the part about me. I left out the part that said that in three years when our youngest heads off to college, I’ll need a dog to cuddle to get me through being an empty nester. It’s okay, though because I can already tell that Gracie will be up to the task.
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Maureen Paschal is a freelance writer, a tutor, a teacher-librarian, and a mom of four almost grown kids. She blogs at Raising The Capable Student where her goal is helping parents to keep family life a priority and school success in perspective. Her work has been featured in On Parenting from the Washington Post, Grown and Flown, Perfection Pending, and Today Parents.
Maureen Paschal is a freelance writer, a teacher-librarian, and a mom. She blogs at Raising The Capable Student where her goal is helping parents to keep family life a priority and school success in perspective. Her work has been featured in On Parenting from the Washington Post, Grown and Flown, Perfection Pending, and Today Parents.