Because I couldn’t get any more cliché after my pandemic divorce, I got a pandemic puppy. My friend Sarah had been fostering since before the pandemic, so when I told her I was ready for a dog, she immediately got on the case to find a dog to foster and test-drive for me. Her kids are the same ages as mine, and she knows how fiercely my two love all living things. It was going to take a special dog to be able to put up with their level of affection and intensity.
In October, I got a text with a photo from Sarah: “Do you think you can take on a puppy?”
Ooooh, I did not want a puppy. I had a kid just starting to accept potty training and didn’t want to do it all over again. I didn’t want to go back to the baby phase with the sleepless nights again. Then I saw her. She was black with a white stripe down her nose, chest and tummy. She had a docked tail but a lab face. She was skinny but had one of those faces where she can look like she’s smiling.
“If you foster her, I’ll consider her,” I replied. She put in for a foster and the little black puppy arrived the week before Halloween with a sad origin story. She was found abandoned, starving and nearly dead in a ditch in Texas with her tail cut off.
As someone who had been dumped and was feeling like my relationship with happiness had also been cut off, I wondered if this was maybe my dog. Sarah started calling the puppy Lucy, which is what my daughter wanted to name a hypothetical dog. Sarah also told me Lucy was the softest, snuggliest puppy on the planet.
We met the dog. We loved the dog. We got the dog. She was, in fact, a full-blown puppy: not perfectly potty-trained and always getting confused about which toys were okay to chew on and not (not poor Elsa!). She has a good heart, though, and immediately bonded to me. She followed me everywhere from day one.
She constantly gets up when I busy myself around the house. I sit down to work, remember I haven’t taken my vitamins and get up. I get the toddler his waffle, sit down with coffee, and then realize I forgot to give my daughter her medicine. The dog cannot get a break.
I started making it a point to schedule stillness. I took the night off from working and snuggled her on the couch, watching “New Girl.” Sweet little thing curled up on my chest and fell asleep with her head under my chin. She surrendered to the peace and comfort of a creature who loved her and would keep her safe. I did, too. Never in my parenting life have I been still.
My dog is no guard dog — she loves people too much — but I did feel safer having a dog in the house. More than that, I felt safer emotionally, knowing that I had a buddy even when the kids aren’t home. We began enjoying our evenings together more and more, and soon, Lucy could stand to be in a room without me for a while. I could leave her at home to run errands and she was always fine. Thrilled to see me come home, but not distressed to see me go.
Who knew a puppy would make our household (sometimes) calmer?
Lucy is teaching my kids to settle down as well. They are learning not to flit around all the time but let the puppy lie with them, which is like a living, breathing weighted blanket. My daughter, who is a highly sensitive little empath, takes a nap with the dog every day, and now that Lucy feels securely attached to the family, she goes and sleeps in my daughter’s arms at night when she’s home. My son loves to sing to her. My daughter practices reading to her. My son is learning how to control his body when he plays with her. Who knew a puppy would make our household (sometimes) calmer?
Having a dog is not something I thought would make my life easier. I knew I’d love my dog and I’d take care of her (she does require a lot of care). I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on toys to keep her busy when the kids are away and I need to get work done. I’ve cleaned puke, pee and poop out of carpets. I’ve enrolled her in one day a week of doggy day care so she can play with her friends. I have to be attuned to her needs even on my days off from parenting my humans. But, for the stillness, the cuddles and the unconditional love of a dog, it’s worth it.