Goodbye Twenties, Hello Howl

My husband has always been a dog lover–just the touch of their cold noses is therapeutic for him–and his dream has always been to add a purebred husky to the family. Something about cuddling with a descendant of wolves–descendants who appreciate snow as much as he does–makes his green eyes glitter with stars.

When Goo was born, the dog lovers in our house increased. Goo is always excited to see dogs being walked down the street, and beams wider than the sun when we see them at the park. No matter the dog, Goo asks each owner that crosses her path if she can pet it, and she laughs her little head off when the dog responds with kisses.

So, for the last several months, I’ve been (secretly) throwing the idea around in my mind to add a dog to our little family. I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I knew he wouldn’t be alone much. It would be easy for me to take him in and out whenever he needed. Goo would have a playmate who loves to roll around in the mud as much as she does. My husband would constantly have those starry-googly eyes.

Not to mention a dog would give us an excuse to get out and breathe some fresh air instead of staying cooped up and staring vacantly out the window in our pajamas.

I recently wrote a list of things I’d experienced in my twenties. “I’m turning 30 on Monday,” I said to Chris, “and I want to go out with a bang.” I wanted to do something crazy. I wanted to do something I’d never done before. Sushi? No, thanks. Skydiving? Haha, yeah right.

Most of all, I wanted to do something memorable.

Which brings us to Saturday. The morning was cold and overcast and the sun was a golden yellow orb behind the bare fingers of the trees, and I woke with a spontaneity I hadn’t felt in years. The same spontaneity I woke with on Labor Day weekend in my early twenties and decided before I even rolled out of bed that I was going on a road trip to Chicago. For no reason other than I’d never been there before. The same spontaneity that made us order a cabin space on the beach of Lake Eerie, gas up the car, and drive to Cedar Point.

Saturday morning, breakfast getting cold, my fingers flew on my phone as I tried to come up with things to do, from vanilla things like playing “movie roulette” to braver things like taking a road trip to the Smoky Mountains, to extraordinary ideas like boarding a flight for San Diego so we could spend a day at the zoo, before turning around to come right back home.

Unfortunately, we’re not the kind of people who have the means to buy plane tickets. It was too cold for hikes. The Smoky Mountains are too far for a day trip. I wasn’t in a museum mood. And movie roulette just sounded boring. I started whining and scrunching up my face and pouting like Goo when she has to wait for her bath. C’mon! I was turning 30! The doors were closing on my twenties and I couldn’t throw one last extraordinary thing through before locking them up for good?

I looked at Chris and mumbled something about a dog. He looked up, just a hint of star in his gaze. “You want to get a dog?”

“I’ve thought about it,” I admitted.

Not kidding, the guy removed his glasses and rubbed an eye clear. And I realized my extraordinary possibility was right there in front of me. I could give the green light and we could complete our little family. I could make the two people I love most so happy they wouldn’t know how to react. For years.

I asked Goo, because her reaction meant everything. “Would you like to get a dog?”

“We have to go get toys for the doggy,” she said, “and a ball.”

Chris was removing his glasses again.

My fingers stopped flying on my phone and instead turned to my computer. I’d thought about getting a purebred Golden Retriever (learned they’re super expensive) and then we were looking at rescues and other purebreds, until Chris’s voice sang over the house. “I found Siberian Huskies!” He showed them to me. Four white fuzzballs and two gray ones. The mother was purebred gray husky and the father was purebred white husky. All had big blue eyes.

We called the number. We set up a time. Chris paced around the house and got zero homework done. My knees bounced with anticipation on the way to the store, where we could buy the necessities. Goo picked out a squeaky toy that looked like a hot dog. We bought a teal-colored harness we knew would look beautiful with his fur (by then we had been informed the gray huskies were gone, but all the whites were still there).

“He’s going to disappear in the snow,” I said with a laugh.

It took us an hour and a half to get to where we’d meet the breeders. I’d been reading Chris and Goo Howl’s Moving Castle–by then we’d begun to hope for a boy so we could name him Howl–and I read the whole drive. It was all I could do to prevent us from going crazy with excitement.

Chris fell in love with them all. Starry eyes. Goo was grinning and petting and laughing when the puppies would try to paw at her. I couldn’t help saying things like “dawwwwwww!”

A beautiful, floppy-eared husky wriggled toward us on his belly. Chris lifted him into his arms and refused to let him go.

The whole way home, Goo talked to Howl, who lay in his bed in the back seat beside her. She told him about our house and what we were going to do when we got there. She constantly asked if we were “almost home” so she could tell Howl whether or not we were. Chris kept his hand back there just so he could feel Howl’s soft fur as he drove.

And I knew. I knew that this was it. My “something extraordinary” had become one of my best decisions of the decade.

Nearing thirty was weird for me. I contemplated everything I did in my twenties, and wondered whether I’d gotten it right. But I soon began to remind myself that every decision, every moment–good and bad–every failure, and every success, led me to this moment.

I got it right.

This was my final leap into the next decade. I know I’ll never forget the way my husband reached back to feel Howl’s fur, the way Goo laughs every time Howl stands on his hind legs and pretends he’s going to “get her,” the way he and Goo chase each other up and down the hill.

The way my husband said to me yesterday: “I’m so happy. I love my life.”

Best birthday present ever.

Images © Lina Forrester

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