Before Bentley

before-bentleyDear Grown-Up Children,

Today I bought chicken liver treats with the intention of carrying them in my pocket. This belongs on the list of “Things I’d Never, Ever Do,” as well as “Epic Examples of My Love for You.”

I suppose it’s only natural for kids to long for a puppy. But I, myself, just wasn’t a dog person. Unfortunately for you, I also had no desire for a cat, bird, lizard or rodent. Our short stint with two aquatic frogs (who never left the water and cleaned their own tank) was about as far as I could stretch.

Lest you think of your mama as heartless, I’ve been a human person from the time you were poppy seeds with beating hearts. I’ve just preferred our yard free of poop, my clothes free of slobber and our budget free of vet services.

Repeatedly, you asked if your daddy and I had changed our minds. Repeatedly, we answered that you could choose animals for your own families one day. But could we interest you in a Webkinz™ or a trip to the zoo?

I could blame my change of heart on cute Pinterest puppy photos, but it was really a feral, black, hissing cat who peeked through our front window during subzero temps and compelled me to fetch warm milk and pickled herring while building a warm shelter on our porch. To say that your daddy detests cats is an understatement, but a small spark lit in my core. If I lost sleep over an unsightly cat (which we tried twice to take to a farm but twice “Cocoa” returned), it was quite possible I could grow to love a sweet puppy.

I remember the moment of weakness that changed everything. I turned to your daddy and said, “Let’s just do it! Let’s surprise the kids with a puppy!” Apparently, it had been an unusually restful day and life felt too easy or something because he grinned and pulled out his iPad®.

Once we decided to make your dream come true, we ignored all possible deal breakers. We filtered everything through the conviction of “Our Kids Need to Grow Up with a Dog.” When we saw your six little eyes light up with pure and incredulous joy, we knew the decision was right.

Bringing Bentley home will go down in family history as “The Day My Neck Was Licked Exhaustively for Ninety Minutes” and “The Day My Heart Made More Room.” Little Bentley Brase wasted no time in pawing down my personal boundaries. I’m sure I had never felt more violated.

As hoped, our (mostly) sweet puppy began to grow on us. With the exception of his antler and rawhide chew toys, he fit right in. He was teething, sleep training, potty training and occasionally needed help wiping. When his bedding went into my washing machine and dishes into my dishwasher, I knew that Bentley was no longer just a dog. Maybe it was his luxuriously soft fur or his puppy dog eyes when he snuggled on my lap. Mostly, it was the nurturing I saw in all of you that made him part of our family. It almost made up for the essence of dog aroma.

Someday when your childhood is a distant memory, I want you to remember that we love you more than our free time, our carpet and our new house smell. We love you enough to change our minds sometimes. God willing, our Bentley will have seen all three of you off to college. You’ll have walked beside him for hundreds of miles, romped together through the yard on endless summer days and grown exponentially in responsibility and devotion. We’ll laugh together as we look back at his little puppy photos next to your little kid photos, and we’ll all be a better family because of Bentley.