Last spring, our 11-year-old Westie, Jesse, died leaving behind his brother, our other Westie, Jasper. We were heartbroken as dog owners around the world know this is a terrible kind of pain. Jasper seemed lost without his commander. Jesse was the leader, the alpha, the serious one while Jasper was the silly goofball who followed Jesse around. I remember the first time Jasper went outside after Jesse died. He stood at the door for a long time before realizing he had to bark to get in; Jesse always did it for him. He slowly but surely figured out life on his own. We bathed him in extra love and cuddles and missed Jesse so.
Of course, the kids immediately began talking about getting a puppy. Matt and I were resistant because Jasper was so easy. Puppies are a lot of work, we’d tell them. They were too young to remember the Westies when they were young. That’s another reason we were hesitant — our Westies were the easiest puppies and dogs on the planet. Seriously. So easy to train, wonderful with the kids, just all-around easy. But puppies are still a lot of work even when they’re well-behaved.
My friends would always tease me because I was a dog person, but not a crazy dog person. I didn’t have pics of my Westies on my phone, I didn’t miss them when we went on vacation, I didn’t immediately turn into a puddle of love when talking about them. I did love them like crazy but when we got them, the kids were 1, 4 and 5 and I just didn’t have anything left to give to two dogs. I was already spent. So I guess I didn’t bond with them like I did our first dog. We adopted Riley, a beautiful, spunky brindle Boxer when she was one before we had kids. We took entire rolls of film of just the dog laying on the couch. We bought her a seatbelt for the car, a lifejacket for the lake and would take her for long walks every day. We were devastated when she died at 9 years old. After that, we got a devil dog that I managed to endure for a year before we decided to give her to a family that could handle her. This was all before my current friends knew me though, so all they knew was the mom who loved her dogs but didn’t really show it.
Last summer, I finally caved. We all decided we wanted a puppy. We wanted to rescue if we could, but we really wanted a puppy. Turns out adopting a puppy these days is quite the process. Home visits, outings with your current dogs, tax reports (just kidding), etc. Plus it was way more expensive than it was when we adopted Riley. I started looking for puppies on Craigslist, Facebook, etc. I happened upon an ad selling mixed breeds (read: mutts) for $100. I thought it was a misprint but inquired anyway. An Amish farm in the middle of nowhere Ohio had puppies for sale for $100. They weren’t sure exactly what breeds but they thought King Charles Cavalier and Golden Retriever for sure as part of the breeds. While Matt was on his annual fishing trip, the kids and my Mom and I headed out to the farm with only $100 cash so we didn’t end up with more than one puppy.
Well…we fell in love.
This little girl was one of seven puppies waiting for us. She was off by herself sleeping in the sun while her brothers and sisters were biting our toes and vying for our attention. I loved her disposition, her coloring, and her long hair. It was hard to choose just one but we all agreed she was it. Miraculously, I had a list of girl names I loved, gave the list to each of the boys and they both picked the same one.
Also affectionately known as Finley Sue, Finny, Finnegan, Floop (because she “floops” off the couch and our laps) and Spoiled Rotten. We had quite the surprise for Matt when he returned. On his fishing trip, he didn’t have access to wifi or cell service so I sent all sorts of pics of our new puppy with the caption “Hi Dad!” that he would see as soon as he crossed the border back into the U.S.
She was an easy puppy, a good puppy and captured my heart just like Riley did all those years ago. My friends and family kept making fun of me for *finally* being a dog person. I had to keep gently reminding them that I have been all along but was also busy raising 3 kids, one with special needs, that were all within 4 years of each other. This was my opportunity to care for and give myself to a dog.
The kids were over the moon. Matt would have 1,000 dogs so he was thrilled to find our new addition when he got home. The only thing they didn’t like was the puppy biting with those razor-sharp teeth. The only thing I didn’t like was the 3 a.m. wake-up calls. Other than that, and a few chewed up remotes, she’s been an angel. Since we didn’t know exactly her breed or what size she would be, each month was a constant surprise in her size and what she would look like.
This face. Those ears.
She and Jasper got along just fine once he established that he was in charge. She constantly wants to play with him and he looks at her like “I’m old and set in my ways. Go away.” but they do love each other.
It will probably be no surprise to those of you who have teenagers or empty nests that this dog came at the perfect time. Even though Olivia still needs me and Matthew doesn’t mind hanging out with me, I was missing the neediness of little ones. Gabe was breaking my heart and I needed something to make me feel like maybe I wasn’t the worst human/parent in the world.
Finley filled that hole right up.
She’s my walking buddy, my reading buddy, my going-to-the-bathroom buddy (not just human toddlers, I guess!), my early-morning coffee buddy. She’s always ready for the remnants of my eggs or the corner of my toast. She’s protective of Olivia, she snuggles with Matthew and gets all wound up rough-housing with Gabe. She’s the best dog in the world.
And now? I miss her when I’m gone and she’s the screensaver on my phone. I guess I was a gooey dog person all along…I just needed reminding.