On Being a Dog Mom

   It’s just after 7 on Saturday morning. The sun’s light brightens the room, signaling that it’s time to rise. I turn over and without pause, Jake Ryan grunts. In hopes of throwing him off, I freeze. It’s too early to get up. Dogs know no difference between today and yesterday. They know they have to pee and would like to eat or be petted. They know I’m the ticket to getting all three of those needs met. He grunts again. I sigh in response and throw off the covers and place my bare feet on the cream carpet. Poncho is motionless. I rise and dress. We’re out the door within minutes.
Jake Ryan: Snuggle Guru
   The boys, now 8 and almost 9, tear down the hall toward the elevator. Five dings later and we’re in the lobby. Out they go – pulling and whining with excitement. I no longer discipline them. The years ahead of us are less than the years behind us, as such my forgiveness is greater. My duo waters the plants, sniffs the shrubs, and barks at the birds. We continue on our morning ritual, touring the streets of Kent, leaving marks as we go.
   Mother’s Day will come tomorrow. As I do each year, I feel a slight nostalgia for the kids I never had. My mom is a world away, tending to our country’s needs in Africa. Before I can feel too sorry for myself, I’m reminded that being Jake Ryan and Poncho’s mom has brought me great joy. This is my story of being a dog mom and how thankful I am for the journey.
   Nine years ago, I decided my life needed a little something more. I got a dog. Eight months after that, I thought we needed something more. We got a dog. The weekend before Jake Ryan (dog #1) came home, I went to PetSmart. The feeling of buying the best of the best brought me to tears. With watery eyes, I pushed the blue cart through the store and loaded it up with a sturdy crate, a plush bed, and a bevy of foods. Attaining perfection for his homecoming was essential. When Poncho (dog #2) came home, he was wrapped in a blanket we picked up at Walgreens after we picked him up. They weren’t best friends at first, but now, years later, they are thick as thieves. That is my greatest accomplishment.
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   My dogs are my first priority. Their bills and food come before mine. I’m home from work as early as possible just so they can go out to pee. Road trips are a weekend staple. They’ve visited a half dozen states and logged more miles than I can attempt to calculate. My trusty companions sustained me through the deepest depression. When they became mine and I became theirs, I promised I would give them the best, do my best, and be the best. In turn, they promised not to pee inside (but sometimes on each other) or to leave.
Beach Boys!
   Being a dog mom isn’t like being a human mom. For as long as the dogs live, I’ll be picking up poop, making meals, and giving baths. I’ll bury them, a fact made all too real this last month when we said farewell to my brother’s dog. If I’m lucky enough I’ll hold them and wish them well as their last breath leaves their bodies. Yes, the years ahead are fewer than the years behind. But the joy continues to multiply. When Poncho gallops through fields, when Jake Ryan nudges at my hand, the joy multiplies. When they’re curled up on top of another, the joy multiplies.
Poncho - Cutest thing ever
   Poncho’s new thing is to come to me when I’m standing and put his front paws on my legs, looking at me “Pick me up,” his eyes say. In one fell swoop, his 14-pound body rests in the crook of my elbow. Jake Ryan’s new thing is napping in the spare bedroom. This started in March, shortly after a terrifying health scare. I’ve laid out a mattress topper and put his favorite blanket on it. The room is dark and when I slide the doors shut, it’s quiet. He’ll be 9 in three weeks. Our years – they’re passing. I don’t like this new habit. Instead, I lay down beside him and whisper gently, reminding him of the day he came home or of the adventures we’ve had and promise him more tomorrow. Inevitably, Poncho joins us. Before I turn in for the night, I usher him into my room, where he either sleeps beside me or in a bed in the corner. I say my prayers, thanking God for these beings who gave me a purpose I didn’t know I was missing and beg for as many more years are possible.

Hawk Fans 
   When Jake Ryan grunts us all awake tomorrow, the country will be knee deep in celebrating moms. Brunches, phone calls, and flowers mark the day. For this trio, we’ll embark on an adventure – something symbolic of another day passing, something to remind me why being their mom is the best adventure I could have ever asked for.


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