Extra Pulp: Puppy Love

With help from her sons, Laura Anders Lee has given up the fight against puppy love, doggone it.

David Vallejo

I’ve never been a dog person. Even as a child, I wasn’t a big animal lover. One of my best friends had an army of cats and dogs that sent me into violent sneezing fits. My other best friend had a dachshund named Georgie, an evil wiener dog who, sensing my fear, would leap at me with a vicious bark.

As an adult, I confided in my other non dog-loving friends. We shared our biggest pet peeves: dirty paws on our white pants before dinner, poop on the bottom of our shoes, and that one dog that always sniffed around in inappropriate places. We are never getting a dog, we told one another. Having children only made me firmer in my resolve. Potty training, disciplining, and cleaning up after two boys was more than enough.

Then last summer, I did the unimaginable. I promised my kids we could get a puppy.  When I posted the news on Facebook, a friend actually checked to make sure I was feeling okay.

Anders and William, who are now 9 and 7, have been begging for a dog for years. When they were in preschool, our nanny often brought over her lab mix, Baloo. Anders has sensory issues and anxiety, and on the days Baloo came, he was calmer, happier and better behaved. I benefited from the best of both worlds—my kids had a part-time pet that went home at the end of the day.

My children have befriended another special dog at our family’s beach house. For the past five years, a golden retriever named Sandman has been their biggest pal—literally. They fish and swim together, then the boys snuggle in his wet, sandy fur.

Last Fourth of July, Sandman fathered a litter of Goldendoodle puppies. When Anders heard the news, he patted Sandman’s head and said, “Congratulations, you’re a dad now!” When our neighbor invited us in to see the puppies, Anders and William melted. One particular girl with a white patch on her chest caught their eye. They held her close and looked up at me with puppy dog eyes. “Please, mom? Pleeeease?”

In a moment of weakness, I said yes. I knew there was no taking it back when Anders said, “Everything about my childhood is about to change.”

We went back two months later to pick up Lillian, named for our little beach town. On the drive there, we stopped at a restaurant, and when the host asked how many were in our party, William answered, “Today it’s four, but we’re about to be a family of five!”

Before taking her home, William gave Lillian a bath, then promptly used my mother’s hairbrush on her damp coat. In the car, Lillian was frightened and nervous, and my normally rambunctious boys were tender and kind. At home, they showed her the new dog bed and toys and took her around the backyard, assuring her she would love it there.

With my husband at work and the boys in school, I spend the most time with Lillian—and clean up most of her poop, I might add. She follows me from room to room like a co-dependent toddler. She chews on everything—dirty socks and underwear from the laundry, the CD case from the library, the kitchen baseboards, the Oriental rug, and even the mortar on our brick patio. And yet the first time leaving her at home by herself, I felt the same guilty longing I did when I dropped my boys at daycare for the first time. When she hurt her leg, I stayed with her at the vet until 10 p.m. Instead of sending my parents photos of the kids, I now send them (adorable) videos of Lillian. I’m becoming one of those dog people I never understood.

Lillian makes us laugh—a lot. One evening we had company over, and she was especially excited. She bit the bottom of Anders’ shorts and pulled them completely down around his ankles. When she plays Frisbee, she gains too much speed and tumbles clumsily in the grass. And she barks ferociously at dog commercials on TV.

Lillian makes us feel loved. She happily licks Anders across his face, and he licks her right back. When William came home crying one day after school, he buried his head in her fur. When Bryan comes home from work, she beats all of us to the door to cheerfully greet him. When I sit on the couch at night, she curls up next to me, resting her chin on my leg. The boys are right: Lillian is part of our family now. She’s the crazy, lovable puppy I never knew I needed.


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