Just when life in our mess of a house was beginning to run smoothly — our youngest son, Owen, was even beginning to show interest in potty training — I consented to invite another unpotty-trained male into our midst.
His name is Fireboat Harvey Pinkwater Addington, or Harvey for short. He is a 9-week-old lab-spaniel mix who sprung himself upon us unexpectedly on the eve of Owen’s second birthday — which is part of why he got to stay.
Up until now, when my husband, Rob, and I have been tempted by cute puppies in need of adoption we’ve managed to stay practical and recognize that we don’t have the time in our lives or the space in our car to accommodate a dog.
But this time Rob’s co-worker, whose determined Brittany Spaniel had dug his way into the pen of his Labrador in heat and produced a litter of seven, carried the runt of that group into our office and suckered Rob into puppy ownership with no effort at all.
I, meanwhile, had been failing in my birthday shopping for young Owen, whose birthday the next day had fallen mostly off my radar while we were vacationing in Colorado. I had purchased about $10 worth of merchandise for the poor second kid, when Rob called proposing a dog for his birthday.
And this at the very moment when I was baking a doggy shaped birthday cake for his semi-doggy themed birthday party, which would also include a doggy piñata. It felt like fate.
I mustered up a few practical arguments against getting a then-7-week-old, yet-to-be-house-broken puppy that could one day grow to who-knows-what proportions and force us to buy a bigger car. But my heart wasn’t in it.
I knew we were making the right decision later when, as 4-year-old Will watched me icing Owen’s puppy cake, he said, “It’s sooo cute. I wish it could be our pet.”
So Harvey came home with a blue bow on him, as a joint birthday present for Will and Owen, who were, of course, thrilled.
I met him alongside the boys — and excuse the cliché, but my heart melted, right there in my chest — just turned to mush, exactly like it had 2 and almost 5 years ago when I first laid eyes on Will and Owen, each of them red-faced and screaming and supremely beautiful.
Here was the third baby I thought I’d never have.
We sent Rob out shopping for dog food, leashes, chew toys and the like while the boys and I played with Harvey.
By 6 p.m., I realized I’d never let our cat, Frances, in for dinner so I opened the door to our hungry cat — who’d obviously been brooding outside about how she, our long-loyal companion, had suddenly been ousted by this schmuck of a pup.
As she sauntered in the door in a huff, Harvey trotted onto the scene.
“Frances, this is Harvey,” I said – and before I could continue, Frances hissed and swiped her paw at Harvey. Will, who’d somehow wound up in the middle of the scene, intercepted the blow, and received a barely perceptible scratch to his foot.
So Frances got ousted from the house again, and there I sat, with Will in one arm yowling in pain and Harvey in the other, trembling in my lap – and me, drowning in guilt for having so completely fouled the introduction of our two pets.
Later Will proved himself a superior pet diplomat, when he, Owen and Rob were playing in the front yard with Harvey. Frances approached tentatively from the driveway, and Will told Owen, “You go pet Frances,” as Will stayed on the opposite end of the yard petting Harvey.
I looked out on that scene, with Will and Harvey cuddling on one side of the yard and Owen petting Frances on the other, and Rob stretched out on the grass midway between – and our family had never looked so complete.
Of course it’s not all blissful moments. On the first night alone, I cleaned up pee about a half dozen times and was madly consulting library dog training books about how to teach Harvey not to nibble on people (especially frightened young boys), gnaw on floor rugs or piddle on carpets.
Pretty soon our sweet little pup will be thinking “No Harvey” is his full name.
When I was a kid, my family tended to adopt older shelter mutts. Now, having never trained a puppy before, I’m realizing I need a whole new round of parenting books — this time for dogs.
Still, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m juggling conflicting advice from everyone from old school dog trainers to spiritually inclined dog whisperers — and of course none of it works instant magic with a puppy.
So we’ll be surviving on love and patience, just as we have with our boys.
Annie Addington can be reached at email@example.com