Our beloved, best girl Lucy left a hole in our family in March of this year. She’s the only pet my kids have ever known, and at 14-years-old, they’ve never known life without her. Dramatic though it may sound, it was devastating and we struggled together through our grief.
When summer hit and some of the newness of grief wore off, the boys started talking about another dog. Whenever I got stressed out, I started looking at rescue puppies online for fun. When I sent them to my husband, he was quick to jump in with four paws (despite what he might now say). We had grand plans — we’ve been dog owners before, I grew up with them, and we knew what to expect. We planned to get a grown rescue dog, one that was already house trained and well established (a girl can dream, right?).
Well, spoiler alert, we didn’t.
We got a puppy — like, a baby puppy. Our new furball, Dolly Barkton, entered our life in a love-at-first-sight moment, and when our eyes met, I knew she was coming home with us. My husband even called her the daughter he never had. We were in deep smit.
With only the slightest of preparation, we brought our new pup home. After a shaky first week of being sick, she started to learn her environment and decided to take it over as her own. She’s taken our world by storm ever since. She’s been the absolute joy of our fall season when everything else still feels shaky.
What have we learned from a new pup? I’m so glad you asked!
Embrace change. We remember what it’s like to have a puppy, but it certainly has been a while. Not to mention, the last time we did it, we didn’t have kids. Having a puppy has made everything different: rushing home after work, planning weekend trips, getting up early. Even though we knew, it’s still been a season full of growing pains. And they have been completely worth it.
Everything happens in phases. In the puppy/baby phase, everything runs on puppy time: food, bathroom, sleep. In the toddler phase, it’s all dog-proofing and training (not sure whether it’s us or the puppy). In the teenage phase, it’s wild swinging between open defiance and sweetness. Then everything settles (we’re not there yet; I just remember it from the last time around).
Everyone has a role to play. At nine- and 11-years-old, my boys are perfectly capable of doing all things related to the dog, and we hold them to it. They walk her, feed her, play with her, and clean up after her. They don’t always do it willingly, but they wanted this, and they have to follow through.
We can always love again/more. When Lucy died, I wasn’t sure we could handle the heartbreak again. It was crushing for us and for the boys, but there’s a reason for heartbreak; you don’t have heartbreak without love. The love part (the giggles, the love, the cuddles) is worth it.
We all need companionship. Maybe it’s not a dog or cat or pet at all, but we are built for companionship. It’s why we make friends, date, marry, and start families. We all need to feel valuable and a pet does that unabashedly.