I suppose I am more modern that I give myself credit. When my daughter called home from college gushing about the new, perfect love of her life, I didn’t blink when she told me they had slept together on the night they met. “Mom! He’s gorgeous, dark and dreamy. He simply wandered into my life from out of the pitch black, Vermont night.”, were her effusive reviews. As she sang his praises and warmed me up for what was to come next, I knew she was a lost cause. She was already tightly in his grip and I knew I had little choice but to hang on and hope for the best.
She was a five-hour car ride away, fiercely independent (because I made her that way) and I had to trust her judgment.
Fall semester was dotted with bulletins of their budding relationship. From the mother’s perspective, she was building this courtship in reverse. Again, I was hoping for the best. All her friends adored him. He certainly sounded like quite the presence on campus. He accompanied her everywhere. He was respectful of her diligent study ethic and, apparently, was willing to log hours on her suite’s couch until it was time to go out. Not only had he moved into her heart, but he had also moved into her apartment!
My stomach dropped when she asked if he could come home with her for Thanksgiving. She couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him and I am a card-carrying softie for the holidays. This simple request gave rise to a fresh set of concerns.
How would he be received in our home? It had been forever since we had a stranger in our midst. Say nothing of the sleeping arrangements. Of course, I chose to unilaterally acquiesce to her request and could only hope for the best. Classes let out on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and they would both be on the late afternoon flight out of Burlington.
I was thrilled to see her mop of shiny, brown hair bobbing and weaving through her fellow passengers. We had grown accustomed to our hellos and goodbyes, but this greeting was abbreviated and distracted even by our casual standards. My daughter handed me her tattered backpack as if I was a valet-in-waiting and made a bee-line to the baggage carousel. Now I was left to bob and weave, confused and hoping for the best. She was sure he would be the first one out and she needed to be the first eyes he saw.
With a thunk and a rattle, the vinyl strips of the loading dock parted and there he was. Her beautiful, kind, and, yes, dreamy, German Shepard puppy had safely arrived and was thrilled to see her! She immediately opened his crate and there, on the floor of our tiny local airport, I bore witness to the love affair. I was properly introduced to the newest member of our family and I, too, was hooked. For some forever undisclosed collegiate reason, his name was Otis. Though regal and brilliant as he was, the homespun name did seem to suit him well.
When it was time to leave the airport, he took his place hugging her calf as we walked to the car. The leash seemed redundant as it was acutely obvious, he wasn’t leaving her side. He would remain tucked in behind her knee for the next 10 years.
What Otis didn’t realize and what my daughter underestimated, was the real fact that she had two equally smitten canine paramours waiting at home, just 15 minutes away. We had just become a three-shepard house! This wasn’t the first time she had changed the fabric of our family in the name of canine courtship. “Chance” and “Charlie” would be hard-pressed to understand her latest move. We talked entry strategies as I drove home, hoping for the best.
I sent her into the house to let Chance and Charlie greet “their girl”. I discussed karma and good will with Otis while he kept laser focused on our back door waiting for “his girl”. My daughter came back out and assured me all would be fine. She wanted to give Otis a pep talk. To this very second, I honestly do not know what she said to that sweet puppy. They quietly opened the door and entered together. All three dogs dropped low to the ground and so did my daughter. I closed my eyes and hoped for the best. With no more than a minor tuft of hair fluffed with bravado and in no more than fifteen minutes, they were a foursome. Only she could have pulled that off!
Otis became a welcomed and storied member of our family. My daughter and Otis would travel back and forth to school for the remaining two years of her time in Vermont. Otis was one of those dogs of college campus lore. He went to graduation and is pictured in her yearbook. Otis took up permanent residence with us when things like jobs and travel got in the way. Otis lived long enough to sit on the train of her wedding dress and to meet my granddaughter. Sometimes, we get what we hope for. He was the best…
Christine G. is a mother of two and a Westchester County, NY-based high school college counselor. She has often had to step back, take pause and heed her own advice. With one child out of college and the next one set to graduate with the Class of 2017, Christine has been elbow deep in the college process for nearly a decade.