I’ve made some bad decisions in my life.
I quit piano lessons when I was a kid because I wanted to play outside with my friends. I probably should never have taken a job at eBay (even though I really enjoyed the people there). The other night at 10:00 pm I drank a huge coke – one of those 62 ounce gas station cups that won’t even fit in your car’s drink holder. Many of my bad decisions have been the decision not to act when acting would have led to a better outcome. I’ve also made some pretty amazingly good decisions and gotten lucky too.
I recently made the worst decision ever.
” Why would you do that?? You realize Amy’s seven months pregnant?” Those were pretty much the exact words from Amy’s OB-GYN, an incredibly wise and well-respected doctor who we trusted enormously. We had been hearing a similar sentiment from just about everyone we knew and told about our little plan, but I personally was taken aback how direct she was. Were we crazy? How could something that made at least some level of sense to us be seen by everyone else as the dumbest move ever?
Yes, we were planning to get a puppy while Amy was 7 months pregnant and with a 3-year old already running about the house. And there was nothing anyone could say to us to change our mind though they tried:
– “Are you crazy?”
– “It’s like a third kid, how in the world are you going to do that?”
– “What can I say to you that will make you not get a puppy?”
– “Can’t you just get an older dog?”
– “OMG, you cannot be serious.”
I usually laughed and shrugged it off with a “well, is there ever a good time to get a puppy?” or “You know my wife right?” but deep down, maybe not even that deep, I know they were all right. I was going to regret this for a long time; it was a seemingly terrible decision. We didn’t need a dog, let alone a puppy. We had more than enough going on in our lives. And yet, I found myself driving down to Bakersfield, California to pick up an 8-week old labradoodle (note: if by some chance you ever find yourself in Bakersfield and I hope you don’t, stay at The Padre Hotel and try the french toast).
Here’s the thing: Amy wanted a dog. Not just a dog, but a puppy. She had wanted one for a long time since our beloved golden retriever Daisy passed in April 2009. I said no for a few years, including this past January (before Amy was pregnant), when Amy had a lead on a golden retriever from a breeder that she had been talking to — a top breeder. However, I decided to give her a passionate speech about why we shouldn’t get a dog right then so we could focus on Alex (a dog, if you do the math, would have been well-trained by the time Ryan was born this past October). I quickly changed my mind when she got really upset and told her I was an absolute “YES”, but it was too late, the moment was gone, and so was the puppy. I’m an idiot, but that’s not new news. I never ever wanted to see her that upset again for something I could prevent just by saying “yes.” So, this time — pregnancy and common sense be damned — there was no way I was going to say no.
But there was another thing — we thought the dog would be great for Alex. Amy and I believe in the power of dogs for therapy, to help heal, to save people, to do just about anything. When Amy told me about an article she read regarding research showing that dogs can help kids who have trouble reading because dogs can listen without judgment, neither one of us doubted for a minute that the research wasn’t valid. Alex has challenges with speech and while he’s made great progress, his road is long and his hurdles are not insignificant. We believed strongly that giving Alex a best friend, one that never judges or asks questions, would help his confidence and even more importantly give him a topic that he loved to talk about — his puppy. We even named her Summer in part to help him with “S” words, which he couldn’t pronounce.
With two really good reasons to get a puppy, we took the leap. And, it was an utter disaster. Everyone was right; there was no way we could do this. Summer nipped at Alex all the time, he tackled her, she knocked him down, poop and pee were everywhere, our house and our lives became even more chaotic (did I mention Amy was seven months pregnant?). We worked with a trainer who had us shaking cans with pennies in them to “scare” Summer into doing the right thing, and the only result was Alex running around the backyard throwing the weighted can full of pennies at Summer. To top everything off, Summer had ringworm — which she likely had when we took her home — and while this normally wouldn’t be a big deal, it could be transmitted to a young toddler who may crawl on the grass or a very pregnant woman.
But…there were some glimmers of hope.
Summer was a good dog, at least when Alex wasn’t antagonizing her. She didn’t destroy things. She picked up house training fairly quickly. She was affectionate, always sitting at someone’s feet. Amy and Alex loved her. She quickly was becoming a part of the family, even if I still had my doubts. And, Alex’s words were starting to come out. Summer was “umma” to Alex, but that was a good start. Almost immediately, there was “umma down” and “chase umma.” Alex woke up every morning and raced downstairs to “wake up umma.”
There are still plenty of moments — like when Alex jumps off the bed and flying tackles Summer — that I feel like we made the wrong decision. But then it happens…Ryan rolls over and gently caresses Summer’s fur or Alex comes home from a long day, lies down on the couch and rests his head on Summer like a pillow saying “I want to lie down with Summer.”
And yes, you read that correctly. One month after Summer came home, Alex’s “umma” became “Summer” and then came “sit”…
And, of course, “stay.”