Years ago, back when my husband and I thought we were in charge of our destiny, we planned to have one child. Total. When the baby turned one, we’d adopt a dog.
That was our plan.
What actually happened is that Bunz was born under the October full moon and all hell broke loose. No longer did we have each others’ full attention. No longer was our house clean and organized. No longer did we sleep. Or eat. Or think. Everything was new and different and complicated. Breakfast was served at lunch, lunch was served at dinner, and showers were scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays, when my husband’s aunt came to help.
When Valentine’s Day rolled around, my mom took pity on us and offered to babysit. She wasn’t exactly a baby person, so this was a really big deal. We happily accepted.
A few weeks later, I felt like something was off. I felt unusually happy … and normal … all of a sudden. Which sounds kind of funny but, actually, if you laughed just now you’re about to feel really bad because I was in a dark, dark place after Bunz was born. I’m the kind of person who can laugh at a funeral, but not even I can laugh off that darkness.
When you’re a girl in your early 30s and you get that ‘something’s off’ feeling, there’s only one thing to do: I packed up Bunz and headed to the store for a pregnancy test. They were behind a locked cabinet. The store clerk who came to unlock them took one look at me with the crazy hair and the screaming infant, and shook her head. (Later, my mom stood with me at Bunz’ crib and shook her head, too, saying, “Oh, hon. What would you do with another baby?”)
Have you ever taken a pregnancy test and waited way longer than it says to wait just because you’re so terrified/hopeful that the second line will appear? This wasn’t like that. As soon as I peed on that stick, two of the deepest, darkest possible lines appeared. There was no question about it – Little Bear was in the HOUSE.
I looked at 4-month-old Baby Bunz laying on an activity mat in the hallway. I looked at the stick. I tried to picture my husband’s panicked face; decided I’d rather not. I knew it would be a very long time before we got that dog.
Well, fast-forward 6 years and here we are. Meet our newest family member, Crazy Jake.
We’ve been promising Little Bear a dog ever since he could talk. The deal has always been that he could have a dog when he turned 5. We used to think of age 5 as some ambiguous point in the distant future, but somehow he’s already 5 and we’re screwed. “Now remember – you’re going to be 5 for a whole year,” we’ve been saying.
Lately, though, we’ve been feeling like we might finally be ready. So last weekend we went to a large adoption event hosted by several local animal shelters. We weren’t sure if we’d find our dog, but we were at least willing to entertain the possibility.
We walked around and saw all kinds of dogs, large and small, friendly and shy, playful and reserved. One dog, a medium-sized Border Collie/Australian Shepherd/German Shorthair Pointer mix, looked kind of goofy as he perked his ears, tilted his head and stared at an invisible spot on the asphalt, like he was deciphering a secret message. Suddenly he bounced straight into the air on all fours.
That’s one crazy dog, I thought to myself. He’s perfect.
Have you ever met someone for the first time and felt like you’re reconnecting with an old friend? My friend Sara and I met that way. The first time we laid eyes on each other, we were both like, “Oh hi. It’s you. What are you doing here?”
That’s how it felt with this dog. I swear I recognized him from a distant time or place. A fairy tale. A memory. A dream.
The more I learned about the dog and his background, the more I felt like this situation had my dead mother-in-law written all over it. (See? That’s funny. We can laugh at that.) Check this out: The dog’s previous owner was a kindergarten teacher (like my MIL) who had been training Jake to be a therapy dog (which we need). He’s deaf and is trained to respond to hand signals and some ASL signs (possibly allowing him to be more intuitive and attentive than other dogs). Also, he has brown ears (see “…but what does it MEAN?!?”). And his name is Jake – the name my husband’s grandfather called every one of his grandsons, regardless of their actual names. When Little Bear was born, we gave him the middle name Jacob just so that Pop Pop would be right when he drawled, “Hey Jake!”
After some discussion and consideration (in which I purposely didn’t mention the MIL theory), we decided to take Jake home and see how it went.
Oh God. Can you even imagine what a stressful day that was? My husband and I kept having flashbacks to the day we brought Baby Bunz home from the hospital. Chaos. Anxiety. Clusterfucks.
Our first walk with Jake reminded me of that book, The Diggingest Dog, about a little boy who adopts a dog that doesn’t know how to dig. When the dog finally learns how to dig, he digs up the whole town, including the highway, the barber shop, and multiple vegetable gardens. That’s Jake.
“Back up! Back up! Here he goes!” we shouted multiple times that day, as Jake dug holes the size of watermelons in 15 seconds flat, spraying Bunz with fresh soil. Clearly we have some issues to iron out, I thought. On the other hand, he was incredibly attentive and responded immediately to the two hand signals we knew: lay down and potty. It was clear that someone had trained him well.
Over the years, I’ve gotten semi-used to a chaotic house – when you live with three boys, there’s only so much you can control. But adding a dog to the mix has been mind-boggling. Right now, Little Bear is dragging the dog around atop a long carpet runner from the hallway. Bunz is playing the piano, loudly. Drops of dog slobber and water bowl spillage mingle with discarded dry food and dog treats on the kitchen floor. I haven’t played my guitar or worked out in days. Kitty Little is hiding under the bed.
Even worse, my emergency bag of chocolate chips is missing from its hiding place at the back of the kitchen cabinet. Someone found it and ate it.
What I need to do now is clean. Cleaning always helps.
But I’m exhausted.
I’m being over-dramatic, of course. The beautiful moments far outweigh the chaotic ones. Noticing Jake wait patiently for Bunz as we navigate down the front stairs. Listening to Little Bear teach Jake tricks and new signs. Seeing Jake jump into the shower with my husband, uninvited, and then refuse to get out. Finally meeting the older man who lives in the hippie house down our street. I’ve always wanted to meet that guy and now I know his name: Norm. I feel like Norm and I should have a lot to talk about. What I didn’t tell Norm is that Jake is the one who dug that huge hole in his front lawn. Norm still thinks it’s the gophers. Heh.
Every day it’s getting easier, and it’s only Day 4. Here’s hoping that the next time we meet, the newest member of Team Bunz is so seamlessly integrated into our household that we can’t remember life before he was here.