It's Day3 of the Slice of Life Story Challenge, started by Two Writing Teachers. I am writing around the theme topic of "What I Know For Sure." (See Day 1 for a full explanation.)
"No. No dog. No puppy. No." That was my first response to my husband, Ed's, idea to get a puppy for Katie, our youngest daughter, for Christmas five years ago. She REALLY wanted a puppy, but we already had a needy and anxious Labrador, Maddie, who was terrified of thunderstorms to the point of keeping us up all night with panting, shaking, and pacing. We had two cats as well, both with their own set of quirks. Grace came into our room early every morning, meowing loudly, especially on Saturdays, and cross-eyed Faith was somewhat spacey and tended to drool when kneading, preparing to curl up in your lap. WHY would we want another pet?!
However, I do love animals, and when Ed went ahead and researched Cocker Spaniels (one of my favorite breeds) anyway, knowing I would probably buckle under the pressure, and showed me the pictures, I was a goner.
We went ahead and committed to a blond male and made plans to surprise Katie on Christmas morning. My friend, Jill, was supposed to go to her Mom and Dad's for Christmas, so we planned on keeping him at her house. We needed someone to stay at Jill's with him, and we knew of the perfect person. Bobby. If you read my March slices last year, you know about Bobby. One of my favorite things about him was his Hagrid-like affection for pets. He loved any pet - even the one you'd like to strangle sometimes. Bobby was more than willing to spend the night at Jill's house with the puppy, keeping him under wraps until Christmas morning.
Ed was the one who went to the breeder's and got him, bought all the equipment he needed, and brought him to Jill's house under the ruse of having to work Christmas Eve. My job was to occupy the girls. Ed left him in Jill's laundry room in a crate in the late afternoon. I was to go and let him out once when I could get away, and then Bobby would be there later that evening. I hadn't seen him in real life yet, only pictures, and I was amazed and delighted when I first saw him. He was the smallest and cutest dog I had ever seen. It was hard to leave him there!!
Bobby told us later that when he walked outside with him before bedtime, he accidentally stepped on the puppy's foot. Well, if you know that same puppy now, you know he is the biggest diva-dog and drama king you've ever met, so of course, he limped, whimpered, and played that "injury" up until Bobby felt absolutely terrible. The puppy was perfectly fine, though, by the time we picked him up Christmas morning.
Ed drove over there before dawn to get him so he could put him under the tree before the girls woke up. We didn't tell ANYONE - not Libby, nor my mom and dad who were staying at our house, especially, not Katie. I had bought a little red and green plaid bow tie collar to put around his skinny neck, and a dog bed that was 10 times too big for him. We took him out of his crate and settled him on the dog bed for the big reveal.
Katie loves to sleep in, but once a year on Christmas morning, even now as a college freshman, she gets up early to wake us all up. Christmas of 2009 was no exception, except that year, we were ready! I'll never forget the moment when she realized there was a puppy waiting for her downstairs!
Katie meeting Ben for the first time in 2009
We all decided on the name Ben, and he promptly fell asleep for the rest of the morning while we opened presents. Maddie and the cats were a little confused, but it didn't take them long to accept him. Since then, Ben has provided us entertainment, unconditional love, and happiness. Maddie and one of the cats, Grace, have left us since then, but Ben and Faith are still with us.
We often refer to Ben as "ridiculous." He's not very brave. In fact, he's scared of everything. He's a chicken. He doesn't like anything out of place and will bark at something new in the décor. If he finds himself alone, or he sees your car pull up the driveway, he will howl and carry on as if he is being stabbed to death. If he goes awhile without a haircut, he looks like an Ewok. He has a habit of bowing at your feet as a greeting, and will take off to the neighbor's house next door if you turn your back when opening the front door. He scratches incessantly and loves to roll in dirty clothes. He loves to "chew" on the cat. One of my favorite things about him is that he curls up beside you on the couch, keeping you company after a long day. He presses himself up against you as close as he can. Ben can be exasperating and hilarious, but mostly, he is as cute as he can be.
What I Know For Sure: Pets make you healthier with their unconditional love. If you don't believe me, read this NPR story. Ben greets us every chance he gets with the utmost joy. He's funny, loving, and happy. Pets depend on us completely, so they teach us mercy, compassion, responsibility, and love. I can come home after a difficult day or wake up earlier than I'd like, and Ben's the first one to put a smile back on my face.
Ben and Katie this past Christmas, 2014