I thought it might happen after we had two boys in our home.
Or maybe after we brought home the third.
Or maybe after hosting the girl with the sparkly extra chromosome who turned our worlds upside down.
But four little boys and one big one in this house later, this girl has so far remained the singular queen of the castle.
Because friends, after nearly 15 years of marriage and more poop jokes and toilet seat urine-crashing clean-ups than any one person should ever have to endure in one lifetime, I get the privilege of sharing with you for the first time ever today news so big that we had to tease it on our annual Christmas card.
IT’S A GIRL!
Alaska Winter, the only other non-penised creature in this testosterone-filled home. ❤️❤️❤️
After we farewelled Ranger last November, we said we were never getting a pet again.
The last few years of Ranger’s life were rough, and the months after saying goodbye to him, unexpectedly rougher.
I found myself breaking down at PetSmart commercials and snotting all over our fleece dog print blanket, and strangers at Walmart surely thought Ranger was the nickname for my best friend or maybe some Army boyfriend who broke my heart when I started blubbering about his loss in line. (Only in the South do you make BFFs with your fellow Walmart line-standing companions.)
I never knew saying goodbye to a pet would hurt my heart so much.
Even so, although we missed his companionship and love, Super-Spouse and I were really enjoying the freedom of having a pet-free home.
We could travel wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted to.
We didn’t have to plan our days around coming home and letting a dog out.
We had no vet bills, no torn-up underwear greetings, no brisket break-ins and we were sleeping more than 20 minutes at a time every night, all night.
Except for the six nights per week Superhero 4 reminded us that he didn’t believe in sleep, and we didn’t.
And yet, something was missing.
We had dogs in and out of our home all summer long thanks to the thriving pet-sitting business that Superhero 2, dog and baby lover of all time, started as a compromise to getting a new pet. (Mental note: If publishing ever tanks, take up dog sitting. This little entrepreneur made more money in one week this summer than I made at my first professional journalism job!)
But it just wasn’t the same.
And just before the one-year anniversary of Ranger’s final farewell in November, I really started missing the companionship, friendship and unconditional love (which just happened to come with unconditional urine) our first baby had offered for 13 years of our lives.
That’s when Superhero 1, who knew how to spot an emotional and vulnerable mama when he saw one, decided to pounce … and, while Googling something for me one day, also secretly added my email address to a database for rescued dogs in our area.
Because we believe in teaching our children emotional manipulation at a young age.
All of a sudden, as I was sitting home alone in the chair where Ranger once snuggled laptop-side all day long, lonely with a husband away and children at school, I started receiving emails about needy dogs in our area.
I had no idea where these notifications were coming from or why the cutest pictures of orphan canines kept showing up in my box. Or why I kept opening the emails and staring at them and then crying over the fact that they, like our once-orphans, just needed a home.
It was like staring at a train wreck about to happen. I knew this was not a good idea, but I just couldn’t look away. (Touche, Superhero 1. Touche.)
And then to my email box came Penny the dog.
Penny was 3 years old.
Adorable. Beautiful. Perfect.
And had only three legs.
I made the mistake of showing Superhero 2 the dog he heard me oogling over, and then, it was done.
Superhero 2 fell in love, and he could think of nothing else. Although Superhero 1 may have been the initiator of the dog-seeking operation, once he saw Penny, Superhero 2 became the ring leader.
And that’s when four boys initiated Operation Break Down the Parents for a Dog.
I told them with everything we already had on our plates, it wasn’t a convenient time for us to bring a dog into our home.
They asked when it was ever a convenient time for a dog to not HAVE a home.
I told them I was really enjoying our newfound freedom.
They asked me which I valued more, my personal freedom or a dog’s life.
I told them I just wasn’t ready for another pet.
They asked me when any pet was ready to go without a family.
“Special needs are just superpowers in disguise,” Superhero 2 uttered over and over again.
“How can we let this doggy who is already 3 years old and may never be adopted because of her superpowers go without a HOME?”
(And THIS is why you should never allow your children to read your blog … or the decals on the back of your van.)
Superhero 2 was so committed to his new cause that he not only begged and pleaded and presented his reasons daily on the way to and from school; he wrote a letter to Santa, then created a PowerPoint presentation about the 10 reasons he should be allowed to adopt Penny the dog, of which my favorite slide was THIS one.
Or maybe this one.
I was DONE. I’d already communicated with her rescue organization and fallen in love with Penny the same way the boys had, and watching them advocate not just for any dog but for this very special dog who had gone so long without a home melted my heart.
So, unbeknownst to the superheroes, I pleaded our case to Super-Spouse.
First, by telling him I wanted another human.
And second, by telling him I’d settle for a three-legged dog.
He couldn’t jump on the second offer fast enough and agreed to Penny the dog in exchange for putting up his beloved Christmas tree (which I’m pretty sure he loves more than his wife) a week early AND considering the name “Tripod.”
(I considered it. It was horrible. I immediately marked it off the list.)
Only when Super-Spouse and I submitted our official application to adopt Penny the dog, the rescue organization wrote us back and told us that, although Penny had been waiting for so long for a family, another family had submitted an application immediately before we did.
She was now taken.
Although we were happy for Penny, Super-Spouse was disappointed.
I was heartbroken.
And we were both so glad that we hadn’t let the kids know that Penny the dog was actually up for discussion.
But after imagining our lives with a canine companion yet again, we now couldn’t seem to let the vision of this new life go.
Superhero 1 had wanted a dog for running, and with a companion by his side, we could give him a longer leash (literally) when out on long runs with the family, who can’t keep anywhere near his 6-minute mile pace. (Penny’s rescue organization had said that even with three legs, Penny could outrun most humans.)
Superhero 2, who spends his time at relatives’ house playing with the dogs, not the humans, had wanted a dog for loving on and snuggling and wrote in his letter to Santa that all he wanted was to cuddle up with Penny on Christmas morning and watch everyone else open presents.
Superman had been processing some hard truths about his own past, and his play therapist thought adopting a dog who came from a mama who also couldn’t take care of her might be an excellent way for him to draw some analogies to his own life … and discover that family is not defined by biology but by LOVE.
And Superhero 4 just loved dogs in general.
Disheartened that Penny wouldn’t be the answer to so many of these kids’ prayers, we vowed to allow the boys to sponsor a rescue instead and hopped in the car and traveled to my aunt’s house for Thanksgiving weekend.
The aunt who rescues and finds home for dogs.
When we arrived at her home in Indiana, the sweetest little lab-collie-mutt mix greeted us … the dog Aunt Pam had secretly rescued with the intention of making us fall in love with her and taking her home.
Only she fell in love with the puppy first.
“But don’t worry!” she told us. “This puppy has a sister!”
Who, before we could really say no, my uncle picked up for a “play date.”
That lasted all weekend long.
And ended with us driving this precious puppy, whose sick mama came to the shelter, gave birth and then died when she was 7 weeks old, home.
Before we left, we revealed to the boys the discussion Super-Spouse and I had been having over the previous few weeks.
We told them about Penny being taken.
We told them about other rescues that were still coming to my email box (and that I was pathetically wasting hours of my life fawning over. Thank you, Superhero 1, for ruining my life!).
We told them that we, too, missed having a dog in our home and wanted to give them that opportunity.
And they could choose this sweet puppy, who had the sweetest spirit and best temperament and was, now at almost 10 weeks old, still looking for a home, OR they could choose one of the other rescues in our local area, all of whom deserved their love as much as this pup.
My only constraints:
No more boys. I couldn’t handle another boy part marking territory all over my house when I have four of them marking my toilet seat daily.
And no Chihuahuas (to which Superhero 2 protested, pointing out that they, too, had a special need — Mom refused to love them).
That’s when Superhero 2, who had spent every waking hour for weeks convincing us to get a dog and who had sent his father in another state a PowerPoint presentation convincing him of this fact, boggled our minds and responded not in enthusiasm, but with a total shut-down.
Because now he had to choose which dog’s life was most valuable.
And because parents just don’t ever win.
After much discussion among the four boys and lots of back and forth between the older dogs still looking for homes back in our state and the orphan pup snuggling in their laps (and Mickey Mouse’s dog, Pluto, which hey, as a cartoon character, would be a whole lot less work for us!), they unanimously decided on the dog Superhero 4 kept calling “S’mores’ ge ge” — the Chinese word for big brother, because no human in our house has a concept of a sister.
They even named her in a timely fashion.
Since Superhero 1 was born in Alaska and Superhero 2 had always wanted a daughter he could name Alaska (but decided that, in case his future spouse wasn’t on board with this plan, he should use his favorite name now while he still had control), they fought for our favorite state as their dog’s new name.
“Besides,” Superhero 2 pointed out. “It makes sense! In Alaska, it’s all dark most of the day with a little bit of light. And this dog is all dark with just a little bit of white!”
My sister pointed out that the name reminded her of Baked Alaska, the dessert my grandmother used to make that also went with this dog’s sister’s dessert-y name.
When Superhero 4 realized his brothers were not going to go with the name “Mickey Mouse” or Pluto, the dog he had advocated for during the entire which-dog-do-we-adopt discussion, he reluctantly went along with the “Laska” plan.
But Superman was hesitant.
“I don’t like just Alaska,” he said.
“What would you like to name her?” we asked.
“Winter,” he said. “Alaska Winter. Because that’s prettier, and that’s when it’s actually dark in Alaska.”
And that’s how Alaska Winter made her way under our Christmas tree.
The great news is that AK (the state abbreviation for Alaska — because you know every superhero in this house has to also have an initial nickname our team’s life mission is to bring back into style) is actually the best puppy ever.
This now three-month-old girl is submissive and sweet, and even when she plays hard, she’s no match for four boys (as evidenced by the fact that she is sleeping in nearly every picture we’ve taken of her thus far). The poor girl needs a six-hour nap during the day just to survive pre- and post-school playtime with four Energizer Bunnies who just won’t let her be.
Although potty training could be going better (when she pooped on the floor last week, Superhero 4 looked straight at his brothers with stern eyes and a pointy finger and said, “I told you I no want this dog — Pluto no poop on floor!”), she’s learned “sit,” is working on “stay” and has totally wrapped all FIVE of these boys’ hearts.
Now if we could only get Alexa to stop asking us what we need every time we holler Alaska’s name.
Alaska Winter, we are SO EXCITED that you have agreed (through sheer boy force) to become a member of this family (or to not fight your kidnapping too hard). You are precious, and all of us are pretty infatuated by your sweetness, gentleness and heart.
Thanks for being the answer to a prayer we didn’t even realize we were praying.
May your days be long and your frilly accessories be many.
From the only other non-penised creature here, welcome to the team. ❤️