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We’ve Added to Our Family

You know how you don’t even notice entire sections of the grocery store, or you ignore entire topics of conversation or entire swaths of cultural celebrations? How you can practically not even know where the meat section is if you’re a vegetarian, how you tune out talk about diapers if you don’t have young children, how you don’t even see that Christmas tree-selling lot on the corner because you don’t celebrate Christmas?

Since before we met, neither my husband nor I considered ourselves dog people. We couldn’t be bothered with mess, fuss, dander, smell, or any curtailing of our free-wheeling ways. Once we had kids, we re-confirmed that there was no way we would want to invite more chaos into our lives (where is a fuddy-duddy emoticon when you need one?)

And now we have discovered the pet section at Target.

Somewhat related to my last post, last weekend we welcomed Dexter to our family. Allow me to introduce him.


Sorry for the blur. He’s not a puppy (the shelter says he’s over 2 years old) but he’s quite active and would rather lick me than let me take his picture.

In spite of the firm parental stance, Tessa and Reed have been lobbying for a dog for years. The answer, even more solid than during our pre-kid days, has never wavered: NO.

  • Two in our household us are allergic to dog hair and wish to avoid irritated eyes, itchy noses and skin rashes.
  • I’m done cleaning up pee and poop that comes out of people I live with.
  • We have nice carpets from our time in the Middle East and don’t want to see them shredded or soiled.
  • We like to be able to pick up and go. Not that we often do head to Bora Bora or Pago Pago, but if we had reason, we’d want to be Free-to Free-to.

But. Roger and I found ourselves softening as the kids got to be about the same ages that each of us were when we became dog people. I was smack dab in between Tessa’s age and Reed’s age when my parents unexpectedly turned to goo one night and allowed my sisters and me to bring home a puppy from a litter born to the dog that belonged to our host that night, a work colleague of my dad’s.

Scuffy (her father’s name was Scamper and her mother’s name was Muffy) changed my life for the better when I was 11. In my Scottie-Poo had a confidante who gave me unconditional love and understanding as I navigated relationships with parents, peers and boys. She saw me off to college and into young adulthood before she went to doggy heaven at age 14, one of the most traumatic times I can remember.

At first, our plan was to surprise the kids with a Christmas dog (bonus — all our holiday shopping would be done in one fell swoop!). I began investigating what was available at local shelters, cross-researching about hypoallergenic probabilities.

Then we decided that for the kids to be invested in having a dog, they should be involved at the research stage. So we told them one night at dinner, were proclaimed the Best! Parents! Ever! and began searching together online. I printed shelter applications for the kids to fill out, and they answered questions about how they would discipline a dog, chose a nearby veterinarian, and began to grasp the gravity of being utterly responsible for another being.

The next morning we headed to Shelter #1, which had a couple of possible pets on its website. In rapid succession, we met Buddy (Airedale+Lab) and Bella (Boxer+Terrier — Pitbull?). I was ready to take Buddy home even though his ever-wagging tail cut a wide swath. Bella was a sweetie, keen to have her belly rubbed — the kids were only to happy to — but her breeds weren’t on the hypoallergenic list.

Then Tessa broke out in a rash. Tessa was not the one on our radar for allergies. Because we didn’t know which dog’s dander had been the culprit and we headed to lunch empty armed. There was much disappointment.

While the hives subsided, we decided to visit Shelter #2. Wiser now, we asked only for a hypoallergenic dog. “Sorry,” we were told. “We currently don’t have any.”

“Wait,” said another lady behind the counter. “What about Franklin? He just came in two days ago and he’s not in the books yet.”

So Franklin, a Poodle+Bichon Frise, was trotted out. True love at first sight & sniff among all three youngers. Roger and I, on the other hand, were not immediately won over, despite the dog’s gentle ways, kind spirit and calm-ish nature. Roger had envisioned a bigger dog, one to run with and catch frisbees. I had in mind Buddy.

But we saw that the dog met our key requirements. He wouldn’t shed, no one was wheezing or swelling (not even me!), he wasn’t nervous or aggressive with all the goings-on in the busy shelter, and most of all, the kids were supremely happy. They were certain Franklin was their dog.

We supplied references and filled out more paperwork and listened to all that we’d need to know to make for a successful transition. We had to initial a spot that said, “YOU ARE NOT BUYING A DOG. YOU ARE PAYING FOR SERVICES” — which made me pause, coming from Adoption World.

We passed muster and the shelter let us leave with Franklin, who, on the way home, became Dexter. The Broncos were playing that afternoon and as we listened to the game on the radio we tried on “Peyton” and “Welker.” When my mom texted the name “Decker” (Eric) to me, we morphed it into Dexter.

(I’m a fan of the show Dexter because who doesn’t like rooting for a serial killer?)

Our first week has been fairly successful, though let it be known that a sub-zero freeze is a bad time weather-wise to work in a new dog. I haven’t cleaned up any poop (the kids have taken care of all the inside and outside messes) and we are mostly able to keep our sleeping routines. I did wonder at first if we should have named him Chewbacca — the first few days he chewed on anything BUT the chew toys we bought him. But that seems to have worked itself out already.

Things are off to a good start with our new addition.

So ends the tale of how we became a family of five. Now I’m off to take the kids to our first doggy training class.

They think it’s for Dexter.


Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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25 Responses

  1. I have such great memories of Scuffy. I loved that dog. In fact, I’m not sure she really was a dog, but instead an angel in a cute, black furry suit. Speaking of suit (and noting the time of year), do you remember the Santa Suit? Or the sounds Scuffy made just before we would “Go See Grandma?” It was like she was laughing…and we were laughing too. Ah…good memories.

    I’m so glad Tessa and Reed have Dexter so they can create their own memories like these.

    Welcome, nephew Dexter. 🙂

  2. Awww sweet! I was 7 when mum and dad got me Sprocket for Christmas. It was love at first sight. She had bowed front legs and a bent tail. She had been abandoned by a local Cypriot dog breeder because he was defective. She was the most wonderful dog in the world and super protective of me. We went everywhere together. Her legs straightened out and her tail was adorable when seen moving through the long grass as if on its own.

    I hope you all really enjoy having Dexter in your family. Sprocket was the fifth member of ours and is still sadly missed.

  3. Awww! He’s adorable! Congratulations on your new family member. I wish I could talk my husband into getting one, but he wants the boxer/doberman/greyhound type, to which I am allergic. But he told our girl that she could get a dog when we moved out of the house where we live now, and we need to do that pretty much in the next 3 years or so. Someday…

  4. Your cute post brings back so many fond memories. Several years ago, one of my daycare boys was sitting on the couch with crocodile tears discussing life with Sammy, our Cocker Spaniel. He was thanking our puppy for being the only one that ever understands him.. I have enough stories for probably a book. Thanks for sharing my friend 🙂

  5. Mazel tov! What a wonderful addition … and how brave you are! Love to you all as you negotiate this new challenge. Dexter is lucky to have found such a loving family.

    (I never had a pet. But many times I wished for one. Sometimes it’s easiest to tell your troubles to them first, before you tell anyone else.) 😉

  6. Congratulations on your fur baby! He’s awfully adorable! My favorite line from your whole post? “I’m done cleaning up pee and poop that comes out of people I live with.” That’s my reasoning for not getting another dog or kitten. Enjoy your cuddles!

  7. Haha! Love the end! Congrats to you all, especially T and R, on the newest member of your family. Dexter is going to bring you all so much joy (and maybe a few accidents here n there, lol). xx

  8. We brought home Kara, christened shortly after arriving home from the shelter (Jackie was just too uninspiring), 3 years ago this month. A border collie mix, a manageable 35 lbs, and adored family member. But at the risk of being a bit of buzzkill (insert fuddy-duddy emoticon), YOU will be primary caretaker eventually, with requests to take Dexter for a walk met with “Ooohh Maawwwwmmmmm!” and reminders to provide food and water met with a spectrum of responses from “Sure” to any number of versions and tones of “Really?!”
    I never owned a dog growing up. I’m a cat person. But I’ve enjoyed the experience of becoming a dog person. Now I’m ambi-petrous.
    Now you can forget the special nail polish for Christmas. It’s a chew toy and poop bags for you!

  9. How awesome that you were able to find a hypoallergenic dog so fast! Probably not fast enough for Tessa and Reed though. ;-). He’s cute!

  10. Congrats on the new addition! I think I should have gone for a no shed dog too! Our house has dog hair all over. But we love them. Now what about a friend for Dex?

  11. Love your story telling and can’t wait to meet your new addition! I especially loved the BEST.PARENTS.EVER.! because yeah, I’ve been there :). That’s how I wound up with 5 pets (if fish count as pets). Well, them plus the dog, the cat, the dragon and the yet to be revealed, but sure to win me BPE awards from the littlest – hamster.

  12. You “added” a dog to your family? Hmmm, I honestly think the correct word is adopted. But maybe that is just me…LOL. I hope your kids stay involved, and Dexter lives up to his promises.

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