Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Since many families are sharing their experiences with getting a new pet this year as a gift, I thought I share our family's experience with "Natalia."
Last Year’s Best Christmas Present: Part 1
Our boys, now 14 and 12, started asking Santa for a dog since they were toddlers. And yes, so many years ago that they began asking us–since they (for some strange reason) started believing my husband and I became “Mr. & Mrs. Claus.” I continue to tell my boys I believe in Santa’s magic–and they better believe in it too, or else they will receive the infamous stocking filled with coal, the booby prize my parents threatened my brothers, sisters and I with for dissing Santa.
Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with a severe allergy to dogs, so that limited our selection as well as our intent to “rescue” a dog from an animal shelter because there’s a long wait for what’s labeled “hypoallergenic” breeds. Plus, our lives for many years became so chaotic, running from school and sports activities while managing my husband’s full-time career with juggling my profession. I often felt as if I was “missing” some sort of parenting gene because I just couldn’t handle so many tasks and do them WELL. So, once our family adjusted our lifestyle and our boys became pre-teens, my husband and I began entertaining this dog idea.
When we told other parents about our wishes, we received tons of advice on where to buy our puppy, what type of dog to buy, and, of course, I, as the MOM, was barraged by warnings of how much of the responsibility would become mine: “It’s like having another baby, you’ll see,” was echoed often. Still, I am the type of person and mother who likes to find out things for herself. A new addition to our family seemed “right,” so two Christmases ago we started our search, and, as is often the case in life, I began meeting people to guide me. Most influential was a pet store owner who also did dog rescue. She educated me about different breeds and dog care, and I could sense immediately that she truly LOVED animals; the pets were not caged in her store. Instead, they roamed freely and were grouped with each other for sleeping in comfortable areas. Also, I met another mom dropping her child off at school. She had an adorable dog sitting in the passenger’s seat. When I asked her where she purchased the white furry puppy, she shared her wonderful experience at the pet store I’m referring to.
Ready to buy that “puppy in the window,” we took a few trips to this pet store and others with our kids to get a sense of which dogs they were drawn to from the list of breeds that were allergy friendly. At first, our boys only wanted a white dog called a Havanese, which we couldn’t find. Then they started loving a few Yorkies we held. I really liked some of the puppies, but I have to admit, I am a romantic in the true sense of the word. I told my husband I wanted the dog to “pick us” and we would pick her (him). I can’t explain what I was expecting; it would sort of be as if we were drawn to each other immediately.
That didn’t happen for me or for my husband the first Christmas we went without the kids–who we wanted to surprise desperately. I know the boys would have loved almost any dog they received, but it had to be a family affair. That Christmas, our boys were very excited by the gifts we bought for them to compensate as much as we could for not getting them the puppy. Still, something was missing! We promised them they would-- one day--have a family dog.
Fast forward (it comes that quickly anyway) to last Christmas. After a few trips to the pet stores again with little success, I urged my husband to take me to my favorite pet store one more time, the week before Christmas. I just had that feeling, mother’s instinct, Santa’s magic….that we would find our dog. I shared my feelings with my husband who gave me that look he always shares when he thinks I’m being unrealistic.
I literally took a deep breath as I looked into the store’s front window where a group of puppies were huddled together sleeping. All of them were black except one who had reddish, auburn hair with blond highlights (the same as mine with no gray)LOL. My mouth was agape and my heart was racing with excitement. I looked at my husband who was so smitten wearing a smile wider than the “Joker.” I warned him to “wipe that grin off your face, so the price doesn’t go up.”
We gathered our composure and entered the store. That pet smell was everywhere, and I immediately became congested. Calm and cool, I waved to the store owner, who recognized my familiar face and thinks I am there for yet another one of my non-purchasing visits. Ahhh, she doesn’t know this one is different. I calmly walked over the the window to look at the new arrivals. MY little puppy dashed over to me so fast that she spilled the water dish. The store owner called out, “That’s Red! We just got her yesterday.” And I said to myself, “She’s not ‘Red,” She’s MINE!