Once upon a time, before my husband and I had kids, we took a magical trip to the city of San Francisco with two other couples. And on this magical journey we took a wine tour visit to Sonoma. After lots of stops and maybe a few glasses of wine, we sat down for lunch with the group with whom we were touring. I can’t even remember why, but as I was talking to the two strangers we had just met, I simply said, “Would you like to see a picture of my dog?” The entire table full of my friends, burst into laughter – not because they were surprised by my behavior, but because it was pretty typical.
To know me is to know that I love my dog.
He’s sweet and snuggly and, since I work from home, sometimes he’s the only creature I have conversations with all day. And it was so easy to see that before I had kids he was my pride and joy. But the thing that I always hated hearing after he became mine was “just wait until you have kids; everything will change.”
But the truth is, nothing changed for me.
The day my Grandpa died, the only one I wanted sitting with me was my dog. The weight of his snuggles when he was next to me and the silence between us was the only thing that comforted me. The same was true after every heartbreaking miscarriage. Or the surgery I had to have to remove a tumor and an ovary. I was so afraid that Peter was going to sleep too close to me (because I had staples all over my stomach) that I slept with a pillow on top of me because I knew he’d end up there anyway. And of course he did because somehow he knew I was in pain.
We brought this dog home to the first house we ever owned and every house in between. Other than me, I think Peter might have been the first one to feel the kids kick inside my belly since he was always lying on my stomach. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a more loyal pal than my dog in my entire life.
The day we brought the kids home from the hospital I was so worried that Peter wouldn’t adjust. We took all the advice people gave us on introducing dogs to new babies, but I was terrified. He had been our baby for seven years without anyone else needing our attention and he got a lot of attention. The first few nights were tough. Peter always slept in bed with us, but he refused for a few nights choosing to sleep across the room instead. My true, hormonal breakdowns came because of Peter. I remember sneaking away while my mom and husband were watching the kids and sitting outside crying. When they finally asked me what was wrong all I could muster up was “Peter doesn’t feel like part of the family anymore.”
It crushed me. But like any good first sibling, he eventually got there.
For the 11 years that we’ve had Peter, he and I have been a team. When we got him as a puppy my husband told me he didn’t want the dog to sleep in our bed. But Peter and I quickly figured out that if he started in his dog bed on the floor (on my side of the bed, of course), and stuck close to me, an hour later Jay would be none the wiser. Obviously Jay figured this out quickly but, to this day it’s what Peter does.
I wish you all could see the beautiful relationship my dog has formed with my kids. It all started the day my kids started dropping food (and of course they’ve never stopped). But I’ll never forget the day we were playing outside one summer – the twins were about 18 months old. We had a water table set up and Olivia filled a small Tupperware bowl with water and walked over to Peter placing it in front of him so he would have some water to drink. She said, “Peter hot.” Oh the empathy I saw in that sweet girl’s eyes as she took care of him. I almost didn’t even let Peter come out with us, but he barks incessantly any time we play outside without him. And I was so glad I did that day because I realized how much Peter is teaching my twins too. They constantly tell me that they have to kiss Peter before bed too. And every night that they pray for our family, they never forget to mention Peter by name.
So as you can see, to us our dog is family.
Since we’ve had Peter I have never sent out a Christmas card that didn’t have him on it. He dresses up with my son as the Paw Patrol on Halloween and he lays under my desk every day, letting me put my cold toes under him in the winter to keep them warm. I even wrote a children’s book just for my kids that has only photos of Peter so they could read it every year and I could take pictures – making sure I always got a photo of all three of them. And just as I sat down to write this we learned that Peter is in the very early stages of kidney failure (and needless to say I’m not handling it well).