Late 1980s. Easter morning. Cold. Drizzly. Pre-church.
“Is it the rain?” my mother asked.
We were still in our night clothes and bathrobes when we heard something at the front door. In the age before Amazon and grocery delivery, a noise at the door meant someone was there or the weather was trying to come in uninvited.
We all went to the door, my mother, my father, and me. My father opened it while my mother and I stood back and peered around it. Through the glass storm door, we saw a shivering, wet, muddy dog.
I gasped, naturally, having been working very hard prior to this moment to convince my parents a dog was necessary for life to continue on. My mother huffed and started talking about how we didn’t have time for this - we needed to be getting ready for church! My father ran for a beach towel, ran back to the door, opened it, and scooped this wet thing into his arms and started drying him off. For me, it was love at first sight.
The days following this moment were filled with negotiations and searches around the neighborhood looking for his owner. His owner was never found, and we became his new family.
Max was with us from my young childhood, through my growing up, through my parent’s divorce, through high school, and through my first two months of college. I came home one delightfully crisp fall Friday to be met at the door by my mother, tears in her eyes. Max was gone.
“Lady is going to have puppies! Weren’t you guys talking about getting a dog soon? You should come on over one day after school and meet Lady and Baron, see if you might want one of the puppies.”
We did indeed go on over and meet Lady and Baron, two coffee table shaped Boxers with energy and love to spare. That spring was filled with walks around the corner and down the street after school to visit my colleague, friend, and neighbor - Lady and Baron’s mom. We watched Lady’s belly grow, her gait slowed and widened to a waddle. After the puppies were born, we continued to make the walk down the street often to visit the puppies and see if one felt like a match for us.
We brought Bruiser home right after school was out for the summer. Perfect timing for me to spend the summer potty training a puppy. Soon after, I got pregnant at which time Bruiser became “my” dog. He never left my side. He sniffed my belly constantly. Another sweet dog supporting me and protecting me in a time of need. We worried how he would react to the baby once she was on the outside, but we had no need to worry. He protected her, too, and loved her well.
Bruiser passed away suddenly just six short years later. After many visits to the vet, a second opinion, and more tests, we still don’t know what went wrong, what happened. That pain was so raw and so deep, I couldn’t even talk about it for a long time. It took many years for that wound to become a scar.
“My parents aren’t sure if they can take care of Rosie anymore,” my husband said.
“What?! What do you mean? Are they ok? What’s going to happen to Rosie?”
(My in-laws are ok; they just don’t have the energy for a young dog anymore.) After A LOT of thinking and discussing, we decided to take Rosie in on a trial basis. An energetic, surprisingly well-behaved 2 year old German Shepherd joined our family. It was a bumpy first week. My 3 year old son was very scared and intimidated by her size. Many times that week, I said to my husband, “I’m not sure this is going to work. We will not let him grow up in a house where he is afraid.” We all agreed beforehand that the kids’ safety and well-being was our first priority, and if Rosie wasn’t a good fit with them, she couldn’t stay with us permanently.
I was prepared to give her back, but my heart didn’t want to. Every day, we would check in with each other and have family discussions about how we felt the trial was going. After only a few days of having her, my husband said, “So. How do you think it’s going? How do you feel?”
“I love her and don’t ever want her to leave,” was my reply.
Shock crossed his face as his jaw dropped. He and our daughter had been begging for a dog for years, and my head had been saying no because my heart wasn’t ready yet. But, it was ready now.
Over the course of that week, we worked with our son to give him confidence and skills to empower him around Rosie. To my shock, it worked. One day, he left the fear behind and made friends with Rosie.
Rosie is now a permanent member of our family. And every day since then has been better because she’s in it.