Monday, December 26, 2016

A Dog's Tale

To find out how we got here,we have to go back a ways...

Zeke has always been a high-energy child. We figured he had ADHD, but since we homeschool, it didn't really concern me. ADHD did affect Zeke's ability to learn, but I hoped that we could find other creative ways to help Zeke learn what he needed to in school. That has been true, to some degree. Zeke has areas that issues just seem to compound, and his opinion of himself has deteriorated. Last year, around November, I noticed that he had taken a turn in increased negative self-talk. He even said things like, "Maybe I should just run away and die." This kind of stuff is simultaneously terrifying and heartbreaking for a mom. We consulted with his doctor, agreed to try meds for ADHD, and got Zeke into therapy with a Christian therapist. While I have noticed some improvement over the past year of treatment, Zeke still has some really low points.

A few months ago, I saw a touching story circulating Facebook of a boy with autism who had just received a service dog.

I clicked through to the 4 Paws for Ability website and I was inspired. I began to wonder if a dog (not necessarily a trained service dog) could make a difference in Zeke's life. I pitched the idea to Mitch, who was hesitant, as I expected. I replied, tongue-in-cheek, "I'm going to pray about it." Of course I was going to pray about it! And I did. I also began watching videos and reading books. I studied everything from general puppy training to training therapy dogs (a step under service dogs). I talked about it non-stop, I think. When I initially pitched the idea to Zeke, he wasn't really interested. After a day or two of listening to me, he began warming up to the idea. Then after watching videos with me, he began to exhibit a cautious sort of hope--he didn't dare to hope that we would be able to adopt a dog while his dad was still saying "no." One of the books I borrowed from the library was titled "Underdogs." I don't know if I knew at the time I requested the book, but if I did I forgot by the time I picked it up. The book told the 4 Paws for Ability story. By the time I finished the book, I found myself using every opportunity to convince Mitch that a dog would be good therapy for our family.

Mitch loves dogs. His family even trained some German shepherd puppies who were headed to K9 training. He had his own dogs that he trained and was so proud of. He wasn't committed to getting a dog that only he would be interested in and responsible for caring for. He doesn't think it's fair to a dog to live in the city and constantly shut up in the house (I agree, it's not). He imagined a dog that would be ramped up by the excitement levels in our house, chasing children as they ran around jumping from couch to couch. And of course, a dog is not is another mouth to feed, and care for. Mitch is the sole wage earner in our house now. He had such good arguments! But hope won out.

As I researched, I set my heart on adopting a Golden Retriever. I was interested in a yellow lab also, but when it came down to it I hoped for a Golden. I mentioned my idea to Zeke's therapist and she encouraged me to pursue it. I told our friends about my wish, and even enlisted their help in convincing Mitch. Some of them (including Luke, who comes into this story in a big way) were completely on "my side." I got all the kids interested in owning a dog and we talked about what the responsibilities and rules would be. I also began searching for the right dog. I had no idea where to look. The two obvious places were the Humane Society and our city shelter. The kids and I visited each to gain some experience around the dogs. The dogs at the humane society were boisterous. Poor Mercy decided she liked cats much better than dogs. I found that puppies were adopted very quickly from the humane society. Eden and I began to watch their page for updates every day. They never had a single Golden.

I also searched online, but had a hard time knowing where to look. Every search for advice I found said, "Ask your friends." I found Craigslist to be full of bizarre posts with some authentic ones mixed in. I found, where rescue agencies list their dogs available for adoption. I filled out a pre-adoption application at one organization, and two sweet friends of mine were my references (thanks Kelly and Kristin!). It was encouraging to get an email saying we were approved, but they were far away and I was picky about pups. As I read about other various rescue organizations, some appeared to be far better than others. I was worried about puppy mills, dog flippers, and people who just outright lie. 

Through all this searching, I did begin to get a feel for what seemed right and what seemed "off." I also realized that I was missing something, and people had to be listing their dogs for rehoming somewhere besides where I was presently searching. A couple weeks ago, I began to find groups on Facebook. I joined a few groups. Eventually I got up the courage to post my own ISO ad. I told a little about us and said I was looking for a female Golden Retriever mix puppy. I still wasn't sure Mitch was 100% in agreement with us getting a dog, but his attitude had improved. I was sure that if we found the right dog, he would say yes.

Within a day I had a message from a dog groomer, "H," who lives a couple hours away. She gave me the name and number of a friend who runs a rescue out of her home. I called her on Thursday before Christmas. "M" had a little girl, Goldie, who had been rescued from a reservation in South Dakota. She said when you look at her back side, she looks like a Golden. But when you look at her face, she looks like a Border Collie. Her pointy ears flip forward just like a Border Collie, and she has a white spot on her head. But she's gold. She told me the puppy had lived with her for about a month, and she was guessing she was right around a year old. She said that even for a puppy, she is super calm. She is also already potty trained. And she loves to sleep with her foster mom. I connected immediately with M and just knew this was the dog for us. If I could have left that instant, I think I would have. But I thought that since Mitch would be off all next week for Christmas, we would have time to make the trip to get her. It was falling together so perfectly in my mind. I instantly sent a text message off to Mitch. 

I had no idea what the puppy looked like apart from her description, but after I got off the phone I googled "golden retriever border collie mix" and the first picture that popped up looked exactly like she described. There were a lot of other pictures too, but it turns out that the first picture I saw was a close likeness to our girl. I didn't know that then, of course, but I forwarded the picture to Mitch and to Eden and said, "This is what she might look like." Eden gushed, "Oh my gosh." Zeke said, "Awwwww." I just KNEW it was going to work. 

Mitch came home from work and it was all I could do not to bowl him over at the door. But then...he said no. He was in a playful mood, so I thought he was just joking. As we needled him, he became more serious...and still said no. I think I began panicking a little inside. This is the man who bought me a serger ($1,000...cha-ching). A Nikon D80 ($500...cha-ching). Then a few years later when I was ready for an upgrade, a Nikon D7000 and a new lens ($900...cha-ching). Hearing "no" from him was completely unexpected and unprecedented! Eden joined my cause in pleading with him. She went so far as to offer a monthly contribution to the cost of owning a dog! He still said no. 

I went to bed heartbroken. I had promised M I would call her back soon. I received another message from H. She had talked to M after us and was so excited for us that we were going to get the dog. I didn't even know what to say. I silently shed a few tears and prayed again. But I refused to be mad at Mitch. I wanted him to feel comfortable as the leader of our home. I wanted to show him respect too. He said to me, "With our 20th anniversary coming up, you think I would know better." It was a strange thing to say, and I was confused. He was fighting a cold and struggled to speak without coughing, but he pressed on. He said, "I should not try to surprise you." He went on to explain that he had already arranged to pick up the dog the next day. He was going to drive down after work, but our friend Luke had offered to go get her for us during the day. Mitch had even bought dog food and some other supplies already. I had darn near ruined the surprise!

I was so excited that I now had tears of joy. I pressed Mitch for all the details he could give me. We talked until late in the night. I think I couldn't fall asleep until after 1 am, and I was up at 6 am. I couldn't believe it was happening. H sent me a message and asked Luke to stop by, she wanted to send us a gift. M said she had some things she wanted to send the kids too. Friday morning was hard. Now that I was in on the surprise, I had to keep it a surprise. Eden woke up in the same depressed state that I had gone to bed with before I knew. I tried to put myself into her frame of mind. She and I brainstormed ideas on how to win dad over and "convince" him that we should adopt this puppy. Then I mostly got busy with the day and avoided Eden.

Later on Friday, Mitch called me with an update. I don't want to embarrass anyone, but the generosity of our friends has just blown me away. So I want to write about that. First of all, M was not asking for a rehoming fee for the puppy. She just wanted her to go to a good home. That was so different than my experience up to this point. I had seen so much shady stuff in my searches that I wasn't sure who to trust. And here are two wonderful women who live 2 hours away showing complete trust and generosity towards our family. Mitch said that Luke wanted to take the dog to be groomed as a gift to us (because the 4-hour round trip wasn't enough?!? :) ). But the groomer wouldn't see her until she had been to the vet and had records of her shots. So they were at the vet. We were the recipients of so much love and kindness, our hearts were overflowing. Luke told Mitch that she was an amazing dog.

Luke planned to keep our girl overnight so that we could surprise the kids the next morning. Since Christmas was on Sunday this year, we decided to open gifts on Christmas Eve morning. We had everything ready. It was a fun morning and the kids were so excited. As they dispersed to play with their gifts, Mitch quietly slipped out to go pick up the dog. A couple smart kids asked where he had gone. I hadn't lied up to this point, but I was losing ground. I said that his dad had called about feeding the bees, so maybe he had gone to do that. But I thought he would have talked to me first... Micah suggest I search for him on find my I wasn't worried about it. I began working on all the recycling we had accumulated. I asked Zeke if he would go out with me and help me break down cardboard. ::wink, wink:: When we were outside, I noticed Mitch's car parked a little way off, and said to Zeke, "Oh, why is Dad's car down there? Let's go see what he's up to." As we approached the car, Mitch got out with the puppy. Zeke started saying, "No you didn't, no you didn't." The puppy came around the edge of the car and Zeke broke into a run. He ran into his dad's arms and gave him a big hug. I had tears again. It was such a precious moment. 

We took her on a short walk around our street and back to the house. M had been doing some leash training with her, and she is a super fast learner. Mitch parked his car, and while we walked outside a little while, he went inside to prepare the rest of the kids (so there wasn't a chaotic screaming rush towards the front door...that would have frightened the little puppy out of her mind!). Here is the video I posted on Facebook:

Well, it was love at first sight, that's for sure. I'm so excited about the days and weeks and months to come. This puppy was a match made in heaven and I'm in awe of how this happened. It is unexplainable. H and M are amazing and I owe them so much thanks. As if our new puppy isn't enough, the toys that M sent filled even more requests. There are these moments of "that is so cool that only God could have made that happen." It's true. Luke and Katie and their family always leave me speechless with their generosity. They give and give and we have no way to repay. Our church just finished a sermon series on living be the recipients of just generosity is humbling!

Everyone loves the puppy (still working on her new name!) and she seems to love everyone. Genna is a little to exuberant for her, so she tends to just tolerate Genna, with the exception of if Genna has been eating or is carrying food around. So we need to work harder on training Genna to keep food at the table. ;)

Here are some more pictures...
{Everyone's happy...puppy is happy she's not in the crate, but thinks that's the perfect place for Genna!}
^^This picture reminds me of another detail. Zeke had mentioned that he wanted a small dog, not a big one. I knew from experience that Mitch wouldn't really want a small dog, and a dog that is small is also harder to have around young children who aren't always so gentle. (I've seen Mercy and Genna with the neighbor's tiny dog!). He wanted a dog that he could cuddle with. Due to our puppy's mixed breed, she is smaller than a Golden, but still a medium-sized dog. She's pretty much perfect. We rearranged beds so that she can sleep with Zeke.

{Keeping Micah company}

{Katie told Mitch that 5 Below has dog beds for $5. We bought two and I sewed them together.}

So I want to write another blog post about the rest of Christmas, but for now this special story needed to be told. We are so thankful to God for the way he wrote this story and for all the people he used to bless Zeke.


  1. What a wonderful story, a dog is such a wonderful part of the family.