We got our first family dog when I was pregnant with my third child. Her name was Eve, and she was the sweetest Golden Retriever I’d ever met. I was out running errands with my one-year-old and two-year-old while my belly swelled with their brother, who was due in a few months.
My then-husband had been trying to talk me into getting a dog for about seven years, and I always felt like our lives were too busy. We had planned our wedding and bought our first house, then the kids started coming, and we decided to build a bigger home. The timing was never right, and I promised him we would get a dog one day.
Well, I had no idea it would be that day. However, when we walked into the pet store, my kids went to the same little glass cubby and pressed themselves against the window. We spent about an hour there with a nine-week-old Golden Retriever, and when we left to go home, I heard her sobs until we closed the door behind us. It tore me apart.
We got our first two dogs when our kids were little
She became ours that evening. The following few years were a blur. I had three little kids to care for and a puppy who needed attention. Eve would cry a lot at night. She ate all my outside plants. I didn’t do a good job training her and rarely took her for a walk. But man, did we love her. She was a good girl, the best family dog, and when we’d go out to dinner and leave the kids with a sitter, she’d guard the kids’ rooms after they were tucked in, and I wouldn’t come downstairs until we came home.
When the fog lifted and my kids got a bit older, we decided to get a second puppy. Bringing Leo home was a great day, and I figured he’d keep Eve young. I wanted her to have a friend, and he was so precious I couldn’t resist.
However, my kids were all in elementary school and played many sports. I was running back and forth from this event to that event and, again, felt like I couldn’t give Leo the time he needed. He was anxious, liked to chew things up (including my favorite chair), and sometimes I’d wondered what I’d done taking him on.
My kids loved our dogs and liked to play with them, but that’s about where it ended.
When our dog died, we were all devastated
When I divorced six years ago, Eve stayed with me, and my ex-husband took Leo. Then, That same year Eve died unexpectedly, and we were devastated. It was the worst year of my life, and my kids and I were mourning the loss of so many different things, I had days when I had to remind myself to breathe.
My kids asked several times about getting another dog. There were days when I felt ready, but then I’d backtrack. Trying to get the hang of being a single mother to three teens and tweens took everything out of me. I wanted to be fair to myself, but I also wanted to be fair to the dog we brought into our home, and I knew I should wait until I was ready. I inquired about puppies a few times but would always change my mind.
My kids are all teens, and I am ready for another dog
A few weeks ago, I told my kids, now nineteen, seventeen, and sixteen, that I was ready to get a dog, but I wanted an older Goldendoodle or Golden Retriever to adopt. I knew it would be a long shot, and we might have to wait a bit, but I was more than okay with that.
The same day, my ex-husband sent a picture of Obi, an eight-year-old Goldendoodle who needed a new home. I contacted the owner’s daughter, and Obi came to live with us in less than two weeks.
Having a dog now that my kids are older is magical. Not only do I have the time, energy, and bandwidth to care for Obi properly, but it is also helping me cope with the fact that my nest will be empty before I know it.
Older kids are a huge help with a dog, and I can see their gratitude for Obi because they’ve missed having a dog so much. But the impact this dog has had on them is different than when they were younger. They are much more patient with Obi than with me and each other. Obi has taught them how to be compassionate, thoughtful, and aware on an entirely different level than I’ve been able to teach them.
When I get home, our new dog is brimming with excitement to see me
Not to mention everything he’s done for me. When I come home, Obi is exploding with excitement to see me, and let me tell you, that makes my heart sing. I know my teenagers love me but let’s be honest, they are only happy to see me if I come home with a car full of groceries. Or they need money. Or do they need to borrow my car? And even then, I only get half smiles and half hugs.
This adorable dog came into my life when I needed him. He’s here by my side while my kids are living their lives (as they should be) and has stemmed some of the sadness I feel because my kids don’t need me as much as they used to.
Having a family dog is wonderful at any stage. It always comes with work, and it’s always worth it, but I must say, getting a dog when your kids are older and on the cusp of leaving has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
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