Two parents, two 20-somethings, two Bigs, two Littles, one old dog plus a puppy

As I write this, it sounds like a sitcom or a bad joke! Our dog Stella has not been doing very well in the last year or so. We’ve been thinking about adding another dog, and finally found the right one. To be frank, I was picturing a Humane Society mutt with a stunning personality and dopey ears. It didn’t play out that way.

I’ve been in love with Bernese Mountain dogs since high school. When I found out there’s a crossbreed with poodles, I just couldn’t get them out of my head. We really clicked with one of the breeders we talked to, and she had the perfect puppy for us – a loving rug.

We got the right cage, some puppy food and toys, and had a plan for pulling out every rug possible for a few months. We were researching training protocols and socializing, teething and vet schedules.

The more prepared we got, the more tired I felt. Bringing a puppy into the family really is like bringing a child home in some ways. They don’t sleep as much as we’d like to, they’re sensitive to the kids’ noise and the kids are sensitive to theirs. All he wants to eat is “big kid” food, Aka Stella’s. So we are corralling who can eat what it all times.

The first night he arrived, the kids were beyond excited. He started to warm up to everybody and we found a very unfortunate recipe. Leroy would sniff Lilou’s hand. She would shriek with glee. He’d shit himself. Repeat. Dave and I kept looking at each other, wondering if this was what the next few months were going to look like. Dear God!

Once the kids had gone to bed, we all settled in a little bit better. Dave and I snuggled the dog and took him outside every hour. Without the enthusiasm of the kids as a distraction, Leroy remembered what grass is for. He did a great job and slept all night without keeping us up with barking. I was frankly delighted and shocked.

We all woke up a little earlier than normal, but now we were prepared. Last night, we build out a detailed schedule for the puppy for everyone who’s home to handle. It includes how to respond to accidents and when Leroy needs alone time in his crate. Dave, Tess and I took turns taking Leroy into the backyard to do his business. We more reliably knew when he could play and when he shouldn’t. The kids got more used to him, and a number of races around the kitchen counter ensued to the delight of all.

There’s something magical about watching little kids discover a puppy. All of them were equally shy around him, and he clearly felt the same when he first got here. Yet within a few hours, I could see how much fun they’re all going to have together in the next couple of years. The glee was palpable, and Leroy soon took to clinging to the heels of one of the kids as he got to know the kitchen.

We took him for his first playtime at the park, and as the kids came by to give him a kiss or a pat, then ran back to the swings, Leroy looked quite content to snuffle the wood chips and snuggle with Dave and I. The daunting frequency of his bathroom breaks not withstanding, we are all pretty happy to welcome him to the family!