On our dog’s first birthday, she ate a chocolate cake. I spent the day forcing hydrogen peroxide down her throat until she vomited down the center console of my car and in between every crack in the seats. I was mortified, but mostly grateful she’d stick around to see her second year of life.
This year on my birthday, she ate mouse poison. After many appointments, treatments, and lofty vet bills, she survived and is back to her regular routine of sniffing out dirty diapers and danger.
Growing up I was not much of a pet owner, aside from a frog named Eddie that outlived my childhood love for amphibians and finally died when I was EIGHTEEN. We watched my grandparent’s dog when they vacationed in the winter, but I don’t remember her being work. At least not for me!
When my dog loving husband started talking about getting a dog, I knew my feelings weren’t strong enough in either direction to say, “no”. All I really cared about is that he isn’t a cat lover, so a dog seemed easy to go along with. Our priorities were that she’d be a rescue dog.
I never knew how much work a dog would really be.
Finding her was the exciting part. There were so many rescues to choose from. I found the one we’d use by spotting its name on the t-shirt of the person standing in front of me at the drink dispenser at Noodles and Company. I wanted every dog I saw on their website. Then we saw her. She was perfect and absolutely beautiful. All it took was one meeting to determine she was meant to be ours.
Bringing home a puppy is like having a newborn, except that you can’t bring them with you everywhere you go. The first night we put her in the crate in the living room to sleep. She cried so long and hard that my husband was up all night trying to calm her. We had special calming lavender essential oil spray to help her relax. Despite all our efforts to get her to sleep independently, I awoke to find my husband passed out on the couch with our pup finally asleep by his side.
We named her Marlow. She had a roasted marshmallow tone to her coat and Marlow sounded a little like marshmallow. The name suits her.
Marlow isn’t a small dog by any means. She’s also very, very furry. Which means our small house is sometimes busting at the seams with bodies and furballs. Fortunately, she outgrew her need for a crate around the time we had another baby so we could free up about a quarter of our living room for the kids. But, with de-crating her came some new challenges.
Remember how I didn’t grow up caring for anything other than a slimy frog that stayed in an aquarium? That means I didn’t know what we were in for when we started leaving her out of her crate. At first, she did great. However, it didn’t take long to realize that sometimes when we were gone, Marlow got all up in our business. Our rooms, our beds, pillows, the kids’ toys, lunch boxes, baby bottles, garbage cans, dirty diapers (help me God if I find another dirty diaper half eaten on our nursery floor again), and the latest- mouse poison.
Some of these are annoying. Some were really sad to have to part ways with. Others are just downright disgusting. And unfortunately, some are extremely dangerous.
Having a dog isn’t just cleaning up messes and emergency vet visits, though those happen. It’s having someone to chase your kids around in the yard while you’re making dinner. Having a dog makes you feel less lonely when your partner is traveling for work and you’re afraid to be the only grown up in the house. Having a dog gives you someone to hug when things don’t seem right in the world and you don’t really want to talk to anyone about it.
My bond with her wasn’t instant. It came with life’s ups and downs.
She’s been there for first days of school and birthdays and family trips.
But more than once I’ve found myself on the floor with my arms wrapped around her as I go through hard times, feeling like she can read my sadness. After all, she is the only other girl in the house. And in pure Marley and Me fashion, she’s been there for me through multiple miscarriages and loss.
She was there when our second was born (well, not there, there, that would weird). Postpartum me was worried she’d want to eat the baby, but instead, she approached him with gentleness and care that only a dog that’s been eagerly awaiting his arrival would. They say dogs are aware when their owner is pregnant. She always did love to sniff my big belly. I think she understood this more than we gave her credit for.
Dogs cost a lot of money and you need to find someone to watch them when you travel. You often need to go home earlier than you want from outings because a certain furry someone needs to get let out or fed or is getting lonely. Snuggles aren’t always as glorious as I thought they would be because dogs have claws and fur gets in your mouth and you walk away looking like there’s a mini puppy still stuck to your clothes. You need to vacuum and sweep twice a day and you’ll find dog hair in your food and sticking out of your baby’s mouth. And more than once, you’ll have to run back into the house before you leave for work because you forgot to give her breakfast.
You’ll find her hair covering your clothes while you’re at work. And you’ll lint brush your kids like crazy before they go to school each day. Your car will definitely become covered in fur.
You’ll be surprised at how terrified you get when your pup jumps the fence for the first time. Or how scared you feel when someone forgets to close the gate and a rabbit runs by. You’ll run faster down that street than you realized you could run. Because that’s what you do when someone steals your heart and you think you might never see them again- even if they act like a dumb dumb when they see anything with a tail walk by and disappear around the corner.
You’ll find yourself yelling your dog’s name with the type of voice only a mother has when searching for her child. And you’ll think, well, that was silly. She’s just a dog. But you’re starting to realize she’s so much more.
For a while, our dog felt like a lot of work and trouble. It took me a good few months to adjust to caring for her. She’d eat things I cared about (thankfully not the baby and just throw pillows and toys and my beloved bacon). Then the day came when I found myself at the place all dog owners dread; the, “how much money would you spend to save your dog” place. The place that made me realize I love this dog more than any furry thing on the planet.
Then, you might spend your birthday in tears, wondering how you could let your pup eat mouse poison, thinking, on any other day, just not today. But then you’ll realize, no, not on any day. Because you could never imagine life without this furball in your life. That’s the moment you’ll realize that love runs deep, no matter how many legs they have. And you’ll pay anything you can to make sure that she’s OK.
And then you’ll be glad you got that pet insurance.
So you’ll start to hug her a little more and pet her one more time before you leave for work. And you’ll think about her more and be grateful for her more. And you’ll take more pictures of the kids giving her hugs and chasing her in the yard.
Because that’s when you’ll realize she’s family.
And you’ll be glad your husband wasn’t a cat person.