“We’ll tell everyone that we adopted him,” Michael says.
“We can’t lie,” Heather says, holding the fluffy puppy against her chest. “Besides, no one is going to believe that we found a golden retriever puppy at a rescue. A pit bull or terrier mix. Yes. But not this dog.“
“Then who cares what they think,” he says and sits on the folding chair in the corner of the giant metal playpen.
“You’re the one who borrowed a Prius to take that tech guy golfing last month,” she says, petting the pup, who smells like shampoo. Most times my own children don’t even smell this good, she thinks.
“That tech guy owns half of Silicon Valley and is on the board of Environmental Watch,” he says. “And you agreed I couldn’t show up in my SUV.”
“Well, I’m just saying that you’re affected too,” she says and gently places the puppy on the tiled floor of the pet shop. The dog sniffs a soft hedgehog shaped toy.
“I’ll get whatever you want,” Michael says. “I’m just glad that you’re finally considering this. It will mean so much to the kids, especially Dylan.”
She knows Dylan’s still adjusting to his new school but, he’s making the transition exceptionally well. In fact, this morning she found him dressed in his uniform and ready to go fifteen minutes early. Maybe it’s time to take a chance.
The puppy sits on Heather’s shoe and looks up. Big black round eyes stare at her longingly from a sweet trusting face. He’s adorable. Forget political correctness. “Let’s get him,” she says before she can stop herself.
Michael scoops up the puppy and lets him lick his face. “You’re going home buddy,” he says and smiles.
“This is for the kids, isn’t is?” Heather says.
The best part of her day was the children’s surprised reaction when they arrived home and found a puppy waiting for them. It made the pet shop ordeal feel palatable. She wasn’t a terrible person for buying a dog. Was she? She tells herself that she’s just doing what she thinks is best. Let them judge me, she decides.
“It’s my best day ever,” Dylan says, taking the puppy out of the crate and holding him.
“Let’s take him out back,” Heather says. “We have to teach him where to use the potty.”
“We could put him in one of Ava’s diapers,” Kaitlin says, blue eyes wide with excitement.
“No sweetie,” Heather says. “He needs to learn the right way.”
In the backyard, the sun is shining and the puppy scampers across the grass. The three children follow him, laughing and playing. Michael comes home early. They take dozens of iPhotos and text them to friends and family. Some respond quickly to remark on how adorable the new puppy is, how happy the kids look. Others, like her sister in-law, attempt sarcasm. “Congrats! Another mouth to feed and poop to clean. LOL. “
During bedtime routines, the puppy is the first one to fall sleep. “I think we made a good decision,” Heather hears herself saying after everyone is tucked in for the night. At two in the morning, she sits up straight in bed and decides she’s actually an idiot. “What the hell was I thinking,” she says to Michael in the darkness of the their bedroom. There is the sound of a crying puppy.
“Just ignore it and go back to sleep,” Mike says and rolls over.
“I can’t,” Heather says. “He needs to go to the bathroom.
“I’ll move the crate into the garage,” Michael says.
She shakes her head. “This is the difference between men and women,” Heather says and gets up from the bed.
It amazes her that she let herself get talked into this. Of course she would be the one to take care of the dog. Any dog. It didn’t matter: stray, rescue, adoptee, or designer. It would be this way. She would be the one to take care of it.
The puppy has had an accident in his create. She takes out the wet bedding and carries it to the laundry room. When she returns to their bedroom, Michael is already back asleep. She hears him snoring over the puppy’s whines. For a moment she feels like smothering Michael with their fluffy white pillow. She hates his ability to do this. It was the same with the children. She’d hear every infant sound all night long while he lay conked out beside her. Of course, she was glad he was getting his rest. Still, the sleepless nights often made her feel lonely, resentful and crazy.
She pulls on a robe, picks up the puppy and walks down stairs, feeling older with each step. In the backyard, she watches the puppy go to the bathroom on the freshly cut lawn. Why did I do this to myself? she wonders. The puppy runs over and lovingly licks her hand. She pets his soft fur. The full moon shines down upon them. He cocks his head to the side and looks at her with what she thinks might be adoration.
Oh yes, now I remember, she thinks and scoops him into her arms. It actually all begins this way. Babies, puppies, husbands. Love makes you do all sorts of irrational things. The cool night air makes her feel alive. She kisses the little dog’s head and lets him lick her face.
She puts the puppy back in his clean crate with fresh bedding. The moon shines through cracks in the blinds and she looks at Michael still sleeping soundly. She crawls besides him and presses her cold body against him. His warmth makes her sleepy again. Soon she’s drifting off to sleep, ready to face tomorrow.