Here's What You'll Wish You Knew
To the Girl Who Doesn't Want a Puppy,
I was you eight years ago.
My husband brought home a twenty-four pound, eight-week-old ball of fluff--and it was completely against my wishes. Let me be clear: It's not that I hate dogs. I'm an animal lover to my core. It's just that, well, when you buy a house and start a brand-new teaching job within the same two-week period, it just doesn't seem like the right time to buy a puppy.
And it definitely doesn't feel like the right time to buy a puppy that will turn into a two-hundred pound, horse-sized creature.
Thus, when my husband returned from a six-hour car ride with that ball of fur, I swore two things:
1. If the puppy woke me up or was a pain, our marriage wouldn't last.
2. I was not going to love that puppy. Ever.
Henry, as we named him (After the Henry & Mudge series, my favorite growing up...my husband didn't like the name Mudge, so we settled on Henry), didn't make it hard to hate him in the beginning, in truth. As twentysomethings who never had a puppy as adults, we naively went to Wal-Mart to buy a baby monitor because we were terrified we wouldn't hear him if he cried in the middle of the night. Needless to say, we didn't need the monitor to hear his howls from downstairs. Somehow, though, as the days turned into weeks, my husband simply "didn't hear him" in the middle of the night--and Henry didn't understand that three a.m. was not the time to play hide-and-seek under the deck steps.
There were plenty other incidents, too, that resulted in my haughtily looking at my husband and wordlessly reminding him that I was right--getting a puppy was a terrible idea. There were chewed shoes--I can still picture those leather kitten-heeled shoes from T.J. Maxx that were shredded--and chewed baseboards. There were popped cans of soda that resulted in sticky messes all over the kitchen, and stolen bags of Cheese Puffs that resulted in a very nauseous mastiff puppy. There was the time I decided to give in and maybe love Henry a little bit--and then he peed on my lap while I was holding him. There were nightly frustrations as I tried to do lesson plans with a puppy tugging at my pants.
There were so many times that I swore up and down that I would never love the puppy. I would never, ever be best friends like him. Dogs might be man's best friend, but women knew better than to be friends with a slobbering, terribly behaved creature, I assured everyone who would listen.
But to the girl who is nodding along now because you don't want a puppy, either, here's what you need to know: Enjoy every damn minute of it. Every single second.
Soak in every angry time you call that puppy and he flops down in the yard instead. Enjoy every chewed shoe, every mess, every wild moment. Enjoy every playful excursion and every second of training that puppy.
Seriously soak up every single second, even when you're convinced that puppy will never be a friend of yours.
Because here's the thing. Even when you feel like you might hate that puppy, even when he drives you crazy and he sheds everywhere and there are not enough Clorox wipes in the world to clean up his messes, you will miss these days. They go so fast, so very fast.
And before you know it, before you can even realize it, your heart will soften. Suddenly, that puppy that is nothing but a reminder of why you are so tired will, in fact, worm his way into your heart. Before you even know what's happened or how, he will be the one you look forward to seeing when the world is falling apart. He'll be the one you laugh with and rely on. He'll be your rock in a life that can be so, so hard. He'll be there when you're crying your eyes out over lost friends and lost jobs and lost everything. He'll be there to share cupcakes with and run through the sprinkler with and dance to Taylor Swift with. He'll be the one you take too many selfies with, you buy too many toys for, and that you hurry home just to be with.
In short, somewhere between where you are now and where I am, you'll fall in love with the puppy you swore you didn't want. He'll become your best friend, your confidante, your world.
You'll build a friendship that is impossible to understand and impossible to foresee. But built it you will. The days will turn into weeks and the weeks into months. Years will pass and you'll get fooled again--you'll get fooled into thinking your friendship will always be there.
To the girl who doesn't want a puppy, though, here's the thing. I know you can't see it now through your sleepless nights and accident cleanups, but there will come a day when you miss that puppy energy. There will come a time when suddenly, that puppy can't zoom around the house anymore. There will come a day when he doesn't chew shoes because it's too hard to bend down to pick them up. There will be a day when his legs don't work anymore and you can barely remember a time when you dashed through the sprinkler or danced in the kitchen.
In the blink of an eye, you'll be me, eight years later, watching her very best friend in the world fall apart a little more each day. You'll be me, looking at those sad eyes and gray fur and wondering where the time went. You'll be me, wishing you had savored the moments a little more, taken a few extra pictures, and not spent so much time trying not to love that fur ball. You'll sit and remember all the moments, good and bad, and realize that they were what built your friendship.
You'll realize that those puppy years and all the years after didn't just grow a friendship--they grew you. They changed you. They made you who you are today.
These final years are perhaps even harder than the puppy years in some ways. Now, as I sit and know that our goodbye is coming sooner rather than later, I have a heart full of memories and a memory full of love for that puppy I didn't want.
But I'm not that girl anymore. I have Henry to thank for that. He taught me what it was to be patient and to love, to truly, unconditionally love--destroyed kitten-heeled shoes and all.
So I know you might not want that puppy.
I know you are going to have hard days.
I know you'll probably threaten to divorce your husband several times--and probably, deep-down, mean it a little.
But to the girl who doesn't want the puppy...you will. Oh, someday you will want nothing more than to have that puppy back.
Trust me--from one girl who didn't want the puppy to the next, you will want these days back more than anything.
USA TODAY Bestselling Thriller author with Avon Books (HarperCollins), The Widow Next Door