Have you ever, ever seen anything as adorable as the newest member of our little clan? This is Mabel Cutie (middle name picked by the five-year-old, obviously). Mabel is a Maltese-Shih tzu blend (both parents are full breeds) that came to us one week ago, as an eight week old.
We got a puppy? Um, what?!
Yeah, that’s pretty much still my reaction. Previously pet-less for our 6.5 year existence as a family, I always envisioned a more gradual foray into pet parenthood. And then this little girl happened. Already we can’t imagine life without her.
My better half has wanted a dog always. Somehow he got me to “agree” to a dog when we moved into out of the house we rented from my parents. I don’t remember making this agreement (I believe I allegedly made it like nine months pregnant), but there it stood. When Dot was 20 months we moved home to Portland and into a rental. With a huge, non-fenced yard. And I think we even agreed to no pets.
A big relief for this mama.
A year later we bought our first home. With a nice sized, fenced yard. The previous owners had a large dog (he did a number on the hardwoods and some of the molding). But I was in school and soonly pregnant and we were swamped.
No dog. Not even a cat.
You see, both of us (us being the parents) grew up with cats. Lots of cats. And while we liked them well enough, when it became our decision to have pets or not the amazingness of a pet hair-free household was something we really appreciated.
So we held out.
And added a new daughter instead of a pet. More than a fair trade, I say!
And this new little girl grew to be a serious animal lover. Her first birthday was puppy-themed. Her lovey is a stuffed dog named “Baboo”, the way she pronounced puppy around 12 months.
I began to want a pet for her.
Last spring we even went so far as to visit animal shelters looking for a cat. We didn’t want a kitten. We wanted a young-ish to adult cat, agile yet good with children. We didn’t find one and left spitting cat hair out of our mouths and wiping yucks from our eyes and off our clothes.
This fall Dot and I happened to be stopped at a Petco-adjacent Starbucks one weekend morning when they were holding a cat adoption. There were a handful of adorable kittens there and we both were almost immediately head over heels.
Our “baby” was now two. So far as we know (or, I say) we are done having kiddos. And in many ways life has slowed down for a second. Tony works predominantly from home. Our weekends are generally homework free (save whatever the kindergartener has). Now might be the time to bring a new force into the house.
A nearby dog shelter was having a special cat adoption showing a few weeks after our kitten run in. We stopped in and were sorely disappointed by the cat selection. But we spied a beautiful seven-year-old poodle mix. Poor girl did not deserve to be in a shelter. Alas, we were in a hurry to get home and get our little one napped, so we headed out.
I couldn’t get that dog out of my head. I looked at her head shot worthy picture and fell in love as the hours passed. I began to imagine our life with a small dog. I’d never had a small dog before (we got a golden retriever mix when I was 11), and even though my partner’s dream dog was some sort of Rat Terrier, I’d never wrapped my mind around the lap dog option.
That was a Sunday. The shelter was closed Monday and only open 11-5 through the week. We were both swamped at work and couldn’t get there until Wednesday right at closing. By then she was adopted. I was devastated and the children, especially Dot, were too. We’d never even “met” her to see if she was good with kids, yet we’d already arranged our family around her being a part of it.
I realized I was ready for a dog. Or at least willing.
Just a few days later was Tony’s birthday, and I gifted him this card (with sleeping puppy on front):
And we began the search. We looked for a poodle mix, young but not necessarily puppy. We favored dog shelters. We didn’t have a ton of luck. It was Christmastime at this point and seriously cliche to get a pup, so we sat back and hoped to see an in flux of returned gifted pups.
Meanwhile my co-worker has connections to this litter of Malshis. She had adopted two puppies last year, and the canine parents had another, surprise(!), litter. I hadn’t paid much attention before, but now my interest was piqued. Another co-worker was also taking one of the seven pups. At this point there was 3-4 more weeks to wait. So we continued our search. But as time went on these adorable baby-baby puppies moved to the top of our list.
We read books on both the Shih tzu and the Maltese. I asked endless questions of my co-worker with the 10-month-old sibling set. Housetraining? Vet costs? Exercise needs? Shedding? All the answers fit in with our needs and wants. And the dogs were adorable. They don’t call this particular mix the Teddy Bear dogs for nothing.
Finally the day came to meet the litter. We tried to go in with an open mind (I loved the brown ones and am partial to girls, always. Tony liked the black and wanted a boy to at least attempt to even the household gender score). There were five boys and two girls and our little girl picked us–or, more specifically, Dotter.
We adored her and the following week was both horrendously long and way too short to prepare for such a life change. We named her Mabel, which means “loveable” and Dot added “Cutie”. I call her Mabel C.
On the bathroom counter while I get ready.
And then, last Friday, she came home. It’s been a change, and there’s been some shit on the floor, but you know what? I love this dog. I’ve never loved a dog before, but this girl is my BABY. She sleeps on my pillow or curled up in my neck or directly on my head (and, much like co-sleeping, I imagine the day will come when we regret not training that out of her right off).
I’m surprised by how much I like her. And by what a sweet, good and smart dog she is. The first two nights she woke a few times (and ultimately early–like up for the day at 3:30am!) but that changed quickly. And she’s done a good job with the times we’ve had to leave her, so far a few 4-5 hour periods. Just this weekend she figured out how to go up and down the stairs.
There are a lot of parallels to having a new baby. Love, change, work, devotion, expense. It’s a new family adventure that we’re happy to be on…together