What I Learned From My Second (Dog) Child’s First Two Years

THIS DOG. This madman. This wack-a-doodle.

In case you haven’t met him yet, this is Frank and today is his second birthday.

He’s my shadow – I go somewhere, he goes there too.  He’s my personal trainer – he power walks (read: DRAGS) me around the neighborhood twice a day, morning and night. He’s often a jerk – he steals pillows, shoes, hamburgers. He insists on eating socks… and throwing them up shortly after.

And I am his person. I originally thought I was my first dog’s person, then realized Grady’s heart belonged to my brother – he’s got his bags packed to go to Drew’s to officially start his retirement there any day now.

Hans, Grady and I were living our lives as our little family of three for a loooooooong time — more than nine years — when we suffered a significant loss that left me with a hole in my heart. I desperately needed to fill it and, for whatever reason, I thought a second dog would be the best fit. Somehow I talked Hans into that idea as well — him seeing me with a golden retriever puppy after teaching a yoga class that Thanksgiving morning sealed the deal. By the first Saturday in February, Frank officially joined our family and things were never the same.

Frank was your typical puppy times 100. Always chewing, biting, mouthing. Always barking. Always trying to play with his puppy brother, which Grady wanted NOTHING to do with. We realized fast Frank was going to be more high maintenance than Grady ever was, but we were committed to the challenge.

…and then two weeks after Frank joined our family, we discovered we were pregnant with our baby girl. We weren’t joking when we nicknamed 2016 the year of the #HansenExpansion.

Those nine or so months of Frank pre-Brenna were wild, as most are with a puppy. In order to prep all of us for the baby’s arrival in the Fall, we did everything we did to train Grady with Frank – some of it worked, a lot of it didn’t. By his six month mark, we knew we needed professional assistance and signed him up for K9-5 dog training sessions. This time, most of it worked, only a bit of it didn’t. He ate and pooped A LOT. He tried our patience A LOT. I’m 99% sure his introduction to our family ended up getting Grady sick for a lot of 2016 (via Frank’s fancy lamb puppy food).

After months of doggy shenanigans, Frank had made me so upset so many times that I started to question if adding him to our family was the best idea in the first place. And where does a pregnant lady’s crazy mind go: If I couldn’t make adding a puppy to our little family work, how the hell was I going to make adding a baby work?

For so much of our marriage, I was so afraid to change our family dynamics. Hans, Grady and I were content with life as it was for nearly a decade. We had our routines, we knew what to expect from each other. I questioned why any of that had to change. Then we added the dog that challenged everything we knew — just like Brenna would nine months later. As we hit roadblocks with Frank, I would joke with Hans that he was training us for parenthood — instead of us training him for being a dog.

And the most important part of Frank’s training? He gave me those first glimpses of knowing my heart had more room to love than I previously ever knew. Did he make me mad? Yes, but he showed me how to forgive faster. Did he test me? Yes, but his trouble was always worth the challenge. Did he always love me unconditionally? Yes, even when I was swore that I didn’t know what I was going to do with him. (Huh – a lot of this sounds like how most parents feel about their kids, right?!)

Ultimately, Frank fast tracked me for parenthood. Me — the girl who was terrified of becoming a mother, most of which stemmed from a lack of knowledge and the fear of unknown. Like any theater major, I needed a dress rehearsal and Frank was our leading man in our production. Those nine months we had were never going to fully prepare me to be 100% ready for our child to arrive, but having our larger-than-life fuzzy family member gave us the closest experience of preparation that we were ever going to get. Who needs a 6-week parenting course when you have a wild-child Golden Retriever in your family?!

In related news: I want to wish my incredible mother, Michele, a very happy birthday. Yes, Frank shares a birthday with her, which makes sense as they share the same vibrant, passionate spirit. If you see her today – either online or IRL – wish her your best. We all love you, Mom!

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  1. Michele Lee says:

    Thank you for your birthday wishes! Frank will always be a special guy in our family. I still think he should have been named “Mick”…of course, after me…my name-sake.

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