We’ve all seen those videos – of kids being surprised on Christmas morning with a new puppy. It’s adorable! It’s heartwarming! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime memory! I could already envision how our kids would react if we got them the puppy they had been BEGGING for – it would be EPIC!
My sister-in-law (who I LOVE) sweetly reminded me that I should consider the moments BEYOND the video (I can get caught up in the IDEA of something versus the reality…). But, as the expression goes “you only live once”! I feel like people say this all the time, usually to explain their carefree attitude or sometimes a seemingly-irrational decision. And last Christmas, my husband and I threw logic out the window and became a cliché – and it was all because we told ourselves “you only live once”!
We decided to finally surprise our three kids – ages 8, 7 and 5 at the time – with an 8-week-old puppy. We had been telling the kids for weeks that it was too soon for us to get a dog—they weren’t old enough yet and just weren’t ready for the kind of responsibility that comes with having a pet. Up until Christmas Eve, they kept asking, and we kept telling them we didn’t want them to be disappointed when a puppy wasn’t under the tree (all the while knowing that our newest family member was already cuddled up next door with our AMAZING neighbors. Mean? Perhaps, but I really, REALLY like surprises!).
Perhaps your children, like ours, are keen negotiators. Our kids’ first offer? “If we get a dog, we don’t want ANYTHING else from Santa for Christmas” (of course that didn’t stop them from creating long lists filled with requests for an Xbox, American Girl dolls and all sorts of My Little Pony paraphernalia). Offer #2? An already-agreed–upon division of labor among the kids, presented to me by my oldest daughter, who said “I will clean up the poop, Mommy. And you have to know I’m serious if I’m offering to clean up the poop!” (It’s hard to disagree with this logic…).
Christmas morning unfolded like it always does—complete craziness, too many presents and wrapping paper everywhere. Everyone was over the moon with their loot and ready to start diving into their Xbox games, My Little Pony castle American Girl dolls. That was until a four-legged stranger made her grand entrance (I tried to come up with a really creative way to introduce the puppy. Piece of advice – it’s HARD. I quickly learned 8-week-old puppies do NOT just SIT in a basket! Eventually we just put her on the floor and she sort of wondered in…). The kids’ reaction upon first seeing her is something I will never, ever forget.
Like us, I am sure this is a decision you don’t take lightly. A dog is a BIG responsibility for the entire family. And I didn’t delude myself into thinking that any of their offers would come to pass – there were other presents given and – spoiler alert! – while the kids initially were pretty good about their promise to help out with the responsibilities of a puppy, these days my husband and I do the majority of the work.
A dog – a PUPPY no less – adds more chaos, mess and insanity to lives that are already chock full of all those things. But here’s the crazy thing – despite not originally being a dog person (sorry…I know this is blasphemy to many!) – no one is more surprised than me by the fact that I don’t really mind! Ultimately this was a decision I am happy to report that I am really glad that we made.
And while you should be prepared that you will likely do most of the work (especially if your kids are as young as ours), you should also prepared for the joys of having a dog. In the weeks after our mini Goldendoodle Sugar (a name all three kids agreed on through some kind of Christmas miracle…) joined our family we were all in love (well to be honest it took my husband a little longer to come around but now he’s hooked too!). Like welcoming your second, third, fourth child, your heart finds room to love this newest family member and you will quickly feel like they have always been with you. As if you and your kids had always had this bundle of love to snuggle with, like you had always had someone nibbling on your shoes and on the kids’ toys (one downside of a puppy is the constant nibbling…it does go away, I promise!). And just like when you had your children, you won’t mind the puppy waking you up in the middle of the night like a newborn (which thankfully ours only did for the first two or three months).
I would find myself coming home after a long day at work, grabbing the dog and then reaching to kiss the kids (husband was third in line…). And now that I’m a stay-at-home mom, I love spending chunks of my day snuggling on the couch with her (despite our strict insistence that she would not be allowed on the furniture!).
Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. I love bringing the box of ornaments down from the attic and unwrapping each one, remembering the story behind it. I love decorating the tree with my kids, despite the perfectly-imperfect placement of ornaments (why do they ALWAYS put the heaviest ones on the weakest branches??). I love trying to think of that PERFECT present and the look when it’s unwrapped by the recipient. And even though I moan and groan every night, I love the ridiculous Elf on a Shelf because my children truly believe that he travels back and forth to the North Pole EVERY SINGLE night to report back to Santa. How can you not find joy in that kind of blind belief and innocence?
The memory of how unbelievably happy and surprised my kids were last Christmas morning, when they saw a puppy we had assured them wouldn’t be joining our family for many, many years – well, it was amazing (watch this video – I dare you to NOT smile). And to me, THAT is what the holidays are all about – celebrating family, honoring traditions and making lifelong, unforgettable memories.
If you’re considering getting a puppy, you must think beyond those first few moments and be ready for all the good (and not as good) parts. You must understand what it means to add an adorable, messy, untrained puppy to what I imagine are already crazy, hectic and unpredictable lives. But most importantly you must be ready to fall deeply, head over heels in love.
Besides, you only live once….but as they say – if you do it right, once is enough.
In October 2014, after being admitted to the hospital for an eye infection, I was diagnosed with an incurable blood cancer called Multiple Myeloma (never heard of it? Neither had I!). I am a proud wife and a mom of three young children ages 9, 7 and 6 and since my diagnosis I have been writing about my experiences as a mom, a cancer warrior – or both! I am thrilled to say that my cancer is in COMPLETE REMISSION.