My son, Jonah, just has so much love to give. He’s incredibly nurturing but he has no recipients to receive his abundance of affection. He’s also the littlest of our clan, which he hates. He wants someone to boss around.
“Did you get me a baby brother?” He asked after my routine trip to the grocery store.
“I’m sorry. I can’t get you a baby at the grocery store,” I replied.
“Then how can you get me one?” he demanded.
Evie, our precocious know-it-all interjected, “That’s silly, Jonah. Everyone knows you can't get a baby at the grocery store. Mommy has to grow it in her tummy.”
This was no time for a science lesson. But honestly, with a mother who is a childbirth educator, who decorates the living room bookshelf with a model pelvis and crochet uterus, I expected she could have given a more accurate explanation. She’s been “delivering” her stuffed animals on the couch since she was two.
We had considered the baby-option. But my husband is officially over-the-hill, and as of next year, I will be considered “advanced maternal age.”
In truth, I hate being told this. And I hate it when my clients are told this stupidity. Doctors here in Philadelphia routinely recommend inductions at 38-weeks for women over 35. I always offer clients the latest research on the risks of pregnancy and delivery over age 35, which are minimal. It eases their geriatric fears. Really, if you aren’t menopausal or too decrepit to handle the intense physical caregiving of an energetic toddler, have fun and go for it. Everyone is getting married and having babies later these days. (Don’t our bodies know this?)
(Lighten up, Dr. Sheffield, my eggs are young at heart…).
No, age is no deterrent for us. But after several years of challenges and transitions, Chris and I just crave some stability, normalcy and routine. And maybe we’re selfish gluttons for sleep.
Chris and I looked at each other. We looked at Jonah. (If you’ve been married long enough, you can have a whole conversation with your eyebrows). We both knew it:
It was time to get a dog.
Our first trip to the rescue shelter was unsuccessful. One dog jumped on Jonah and made him cry. He cried for nearly an hour and clung to my leg. Then Jonah swore he didn’t want a dog at all. The next dog was a yappy little mutt, a medium sized border collie-mix ironically named Goliath. He was friendly. He rolled over and let both kids pet his belly and give him a treat. Then Jonah decided that he did want a dog after all. In fact, he wanted this dog and only this dog - or he was going to die. (Really, where do my kids get their flare for drama?)
Chris also wanted Goliath, but I didn’t. If I’m going to get a dog, I want a big one. Little dogs have a complex. I love shepherds, labs, boxers, huskies, and all manner of big, huggable mutts.
Thankfully for me, the shelter was closing, so we had to return the following week. This gave Chris and I more time to discuss what we wanted and why. When we returned the following Monday, Goliath still hadn’t been adopted, but there were two dogs together we hadn’t seen before- Petrie and Peaches. They were adorable, black shepherd mix puppies snuggled together. I begged Chris and the kids to have an open mind.
They first put us in the special meeting room with Peaches. He was skittish and shy. He wouldn’t look at us or take a treat. We already have two very high-strung children. The last thing we need is a dog with an anxiety disorder, so we unanimously agreed to have the shelter swap Peaches for his brother, Petrie, and continue with our special visit. With Petrie, it was love at first sight. He was 5-months old, 35-lbs, friendly and affectionate but not overly energetic. He came up to Evie, sat next to her and put his paw on her leg. We were in love.
We brought him home, sitting in my lap in the back seat of our Buick. He smelled something awful, having never been bathed. He was missing half his fur. You could tell he had been seriously neglected. He had been sent here from a kill-shelter in Alabama, where he had lived his whole life under the bright fluorescent lights and concrete floor of the urine-smelling shelter. He also had intestinal worms. The whole scene was heartbreaking. We were determined to love him into good health.
After a long family debate, we named him Taco after the kid's favorite food and in honor of Chris’ TX roots. Despite his history of neglect, Taco is a most affectionate, loyal and kind-hearted dog. He’s gentle, friendly, silly, extremely intelligent and stubborn.
Of course, we adopted Taco because we assumed that having a dog would be an easier option than having a baby. But of course, experienced dog owners know that this simply isn’t true. Puppies are every bit as much work as babies. But babies can go with you anywhere, anytime. Just strap them on your body or plop them in a stroller. Take them on a walk, to the grocery store, to Target, to a friend's house. Babies are always socially acceptable.
Well, I certainly can’t strap my now 75-lb fur baby into an ergo-carrier on my chest. Puppies need your constant care, but they aren’t allowed to go most places. They’re like gigantic, hairy toddlers, except half the population thinks they’re adorable, the other half is absolutely terrified and will cross the street to avoid you– especially if your dog looks like a wolf.
Taco has chewed our baseboards and devoured seven leashes, two harnesses, three computer chords and countless toys.
He brings joy and chaos.
The kids love him more than anything. They help with the daily responsibilities and lavish love and affection on him. Jonah and Taco, especially, have a very sweet relationship. I don’t know if Jonah doesn’t realize he isn’t a dog, or if Taco doesn’t realize he isn’t human – but they are brothers.
Me: “Jonah, quit putting your face on Taco.”
Chris: “Stop wrestling in the house, both of you!”
Jonah: “MOM! Taco took my toy. Make him give it back!”
Evie: “MOM! Jonah and Taco are both eating my crayons.”
…. So, in the end, Jonah got his baby brother.
And we’re done… for now.