Lola Rose, the writer's new puppy, has taught the family about unconditional love.
Lola Rose, the writer's new puppy, has taught the family about unconditional love.

With five children in three schools, plus activities, appointments, and work, my husband and I didn’t think our lives were crazy enough. So, we bought a dog.

Not just any dog, mind you. I may be biased, but I think our Lola Rose is the cutest little puppy ever. And it’s a good thing, too. Because I know for a fact that she’s been (more or less) absolved of a myriad puppy sins based on sheer cuteness alone.

While I don’t subscribe to the “fur baby/fur Mommy” culture that’s exploded in recent years, I understand how and why hyper-attachment to furry companions is a real temptation.

From the start, owners provide their pets with everything they need for survival: food, shelter, and sometimes, interesting outfits. There’s other stuff, too: collars, leashes, harnesses, crates, chew toys and vet visits. There’s also dog training to ensure your precious doesn’t ruin your floors, furniture, shoes, and mental health. Between the time spent correcting and praising and feeding and playing and coaxing the pup to just! go! potty! already, there isn’t much time for anything else.

Like parenting, pet ownership doesn’t come with a manual. Sure, there are articles and books you can read and questions you can ask, but nothing can fully prepare you for fostering a unique life whose favorite pastimes include running around like a maniac and teething on your toes.

Our youngest child is in preschool, so I believed my days of diaper bags and sleepless nights were over. And God laughed. With Lola in our lives, gone are the luxuries of “sleeping through the night” and “traveling light.” These days, I carry a bag stocked with kibbles and treats and chew toys and baggies for collecting doggy refuse. And I wake up at least once a night for her to go do her business. It’s all quite overwhelming and exhausting … sorta like parenting.

I did not grow up with dogs; I grew up with a cat who was loyal and dependable and compassionate. I loved that cat. But I live in a house of wanna-be dog people, so the odds were stacked against me.

This past summer, we purchased a home with plenty of space for all our people and possibly a pet. My children interpreted “possibly” as “definitely,” and, with their father’s blessing, it was all over but the pickin’.

My husband found a used doghouse online and he and our eldest daughter spent a Saturday refurbishing and matching its paint to our house. Next he found a crate. Any time he and the kids went out, they returned with something dog-related. The tiniest pink collar. Food and water bowls. And all before we’d even found a dog! 

Finally, one weekend, we piled into the old minivan for a Sunday drive south and met the most adorable litter of white fluffiness we’d ever seen. As the proposed primary caregiver, I was instructed to hop into the kennel area to see if any of the dogs took a shine to me. Within seconds, a roly-poly cotton-ball approached with its tail wagging, and licked my hand. “It’s her! It’s her! It’s our dog!” our children cried with unbridled joy. I smiled in a haze of puppy intoxication as the small pink collar found its way around her neck and she played with our children, who were over the moon.

My eyes and heart, however, were drawn to the babiest of the babies of the litter — the runt. She was so tiny, and helpless, and fluffy … “Hey, guys?” I said, addressing my children as they played with the pudgy pooch. “I don’t think that’s our dog. I think she’s the littlest one, over there.”

To my surprise, no one argued. It was almost as if they knew that I needed the very smallest one to love. Now, when Lola bites my toes for the ten-millionth time because that’s just what she does, or poops on the carpet because she doesn’t remember that a dog goes potty OUTSIDE, these reasons I needed a dog to love aren’t so clear.

Why do it at all, then? Why sacrifice sleep and sanity and time peacefully scrolling through social media, for tail wags and puppy kisses?

First, my people all wanted a dog. And I love my people. Second, with most of the kids in school, it wasn’t good for Mom to be alone. But perhaps most importantly, God’s plan for my sanctification goes far beyond car lines and coffee cups. Unexpectedly, this fluff ball puppy has laid bare where my heart needs to expand and my selfish desires diminish.

And it is entirely possible that, in his omniscience, God knew that we can’t always get what we want. But God knows what we need. And, gosh—she sure is cute, isn’t she?