As soon as my kids knew what a puppy was, they wanted one. What began as a simple campaign of begging and tears evolved into a sophisticated multi-year mass operation. Sweet crayoned drawings of floppy-eared pooches began to come home regularly in school projects, and Christmas lists for Santa all had one major request: P-U-P-P-Y. My husband and I talked it over. I was for getting one; he was against.
After years of asking, the kids started to step things up. In desperation, they began to leave pictures of puppies on the fridge on the shopping list, hoping that if they threw “puppy” on there, something might happen.
They brainstormed and decided that maybe enlisting the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy as magical soothsayers on puppy progress would get them some answers. After a lost tooth or on the night before Easter, succinct notes were often accompanied by this question:
“Will I get a puppy?” [Check yes or no.]
I was in a bad spot. I wanted one too, but because my husband staunchly refused it was difficult. For years, I tried to respect that, but my resolve was weakening. While the puppy campaign intensified, small requests for other pets began to trickle in. So we ended up with a Doctor Doolittle-inspired array of house pets. First, we got three fish and named them after the Power Puff Girls: Blossom, Buttercup and Bubbles. Blossom lived an astounding five years. Altogether, we became the proud owners of nine fish, a ladybug farm, sea monkeys, six hermit crabs, one tadpole, two frogs, a crayfish and a cat.
After years of begging, the kids were wearing me down and I reasoned that caring for a dog couldn’t be much worse than the present menagerie. My husband was still not into it. “No!” he’d say when the kids badgered him. He didn’t want the responsibility and voiced his doubts that anyone else really did, either. But I began to realize, as one of my kids said in an impassioned puppy moment, “The heart wants what the heart wants and the heart wants a puppy.” I finally caved.While I was thrilled with the dog, my husband was less than thrilled with me — I was truly in the doghouse.
After a miss at the local shelter where we got our cat, I found out about a litter of puppies up for adoption through word of mouth. I piled the kids into the car, and we drove three hours to pick one. We sat on the kitchen floor, and one black furry fellow climbed into my daughter’s lap. My son had settled on another one, but I noticed that it was biting him already. I told him that the black pup was probably a better pick for us. My son ducked his head, disappointed. As he did, the puppy my daughter had picked climbed out of her lap and went over to my son and licked his face. That sealed it. The dog was too young to take home, so we had to return in another few weeks to pick him up. We named him Comet.
The kids were ecstatic. While I was thrilled with the dog, my husband was less than thrilled with me — I was truly in the doghouse. But Comet was completely unaware of the tension he had caused. He was a sweet, happy puppy and weighed less than eight pounds at first. The kids and I took him out on walks, but it took some time before his little legs could make it around the block. I took on housebreaking him, which actually went really quickly. My husband watched it all from a distance.
Several months later, I changed jobs. My husband still refused to walk the dog, so I hired a dog walker because I didn’t want to upend Comet’s progress, and he needed the exercise. When my husband realized what that cost, he begrudgingly agreed to take the dog out himself instead. Over time, Comet’s cuteness, sweetness and adoration began to affect him too. And whether he admits it or not, he now loves the dog—even if he didn’t like the idea of getting him. I also realized the importance of admitting to yourself that sometimes no substitute will do for what you really want.
As our puppy turns one, I’m glad that I listened to my kids and listened to my gut. My husband might never admit that getting the dog was a good idea, but Comet isn’t going anywhere. He’s snugly nestled in our hearts for good.