We have a new Siberian Husky puppy at our house named Ky. While he’s officially Michael’s dog, it’s become clear within two short weeks that I’m his Mama. Ky hears my voice and comes running with paws scraping, tail wagging, tongue flapping, and body careening out of control. It’s equally precious and equally absurd at the same time because I’m the last one in this house who needs to be a puppy’s mommy.
When I was 5 years old my parents brought home puppies for my brother and me. My dog was a Collie that I quickly named Suzie, although the inspiration for that name escapes me today. As you might expect, Denny and I fell in love with our new pets immediately. But, sadly this new love wasn’t meant to be. Within days I was suffering from allergy-induced asthma and in a hospital struggling to breathe. My newly discovered condition required our puppies to be re-homed, while I was thrust into years of weekly allergy shots and an animal-free life. Frankly, I’m not sure my brother Denny ever forgave my weak immune system for the loss he experienced when our puppies were taken away.
In case you are one of those doubters, let me make it clear that allergies are real. They are my handicap and an awkward handicap at that. I hardly ever go to someone’s house without inquiring first if they have indoor pets. Inevitably if I fail to ask, there is always an animal dwelling inside leaving me with the choice of insulting the host or the full-blown allergy attack that takes hours of heavy medication to crawl out of. Friends, if your pets are fully integrated into every corner of your home, you can’t vacuum away the hair, lock away the pet, or dismiss away allergies for someone like me. When you’re allergic to hair AND saliva, life can be a deadly mix of sneezes, wheezes, itches, and grasps for life-precious oxygen.
My children have always known they could either have a Mama or an inside pet. From the start, this was just one of those non-negotiable deals for the Stark children. Luckily for my kids, I married an Eagle Scout who is not allergic to anything. My Eagle Scout and I bought a 150-year-old farmhouse situated on 15 acres when Lydia was a baby. While that’s another story altogether, suffice it to say Tim has exposed our children to a variety of animals over the years. We’ve had dogs, cats, chickens, bunnies, goats, pigs, and even boarded horses…and fish, lots of inside, fur, and salvia-free fish.
Enter my son Michael into this reality. Michael has always wanted a puppy. Always, as far back as I can remember, he’s wanted his very own puppy. Although he understands my limitations mentally, emotionally this has always been hard for him to accept. My son loves me fiercely, but there is no doubt in my mind that he has always felt very denied of this childhood experience because I am his mother. Michael always says the first thing he’s going to do when he grows up is to get a dog. Coincidentally, that is exactly what my brother Denny did when he left home too.
One day this winter Tim and I realized there were so many factors about Michael’s current reality with being a teen that we could not change, but there was something we could do to make his wish for a puppy come true. We agreed to get a puppy with the understanding it would need to be an outdoor animal and that Michael would be primarily responsible for its care. With this in mind, our son conducted extensive research to find a breed that would be best suited for the weather, our property size, and fit well in a large family. He decided on a Siberian Husky and on a snowy January day, in nearly poetic fashion, Michael got to pick out his long-awaited dog.
Although our little Ky will eventually be an outdoor dog, we’ve prepared an area inside until he’s comfortable with our family and until spring officially arrives. We’re all finding our way in this new arrangement, trying to maximize the puppy experience for all and minimize my allergic reactions in the process. Ky is not allowed on the carpet, there is a HEPA filter by his crate, and we vacuum daily to ensure dander levels stay as low as possible. In the meantime, I’m staying jacked up on all my prescription meds to keep the reactions in check.
We are all in love with this little guy, but make no mistake this puppy is a ton of work! It’s like bringing home a baby and toddler all in one, as any puppy owner already knows. He’s constantly nipping, chewing, pooping, chasing, whining, peeing, and yapping. Ky is100% a perfectly precocious puppy taking 100% of our energy and time:
- As I clean up poop, I scream to myself “you’re doing this for your son”
- As I stand outside in the middle of the night, I whisper aloud, “you’re creating memories for your children.”
- As I pat a whimpering puppy, I remind myself this too will pass.
- As I smear anti-inch cream on the landscape of raised whelps on my arm from Ky’s loving licks, I realize my son is worth this minor reaction.
- As I puff on my rescue inhaler like a nicotine addict drags a cigarette, I remember that sometimes there are greater things in life than physical comfort.
- As I wash my hands 10,000 times a day after touching the dog, I acknowledge that the hardest journeys are often the most memorable in the end.
Ky represents my son’s dream come true. But, I’m also seeing that sacrificing for my son is also part of a redemption story for me. Once upon a time, I was given a puppy that filled my heart but made me very sick. Today, my son and family are helping me to redeem the puppy love I was denied in childhood. Through this redemption, I’ve become Ky’s Mama and I’m so very grateful for this experience.