As soon as my son was old enough to talk he started asking for a dog. He would beg and plead, and even try to make deals. “I’ll go to bed every night right when you tell me to IF you let me have a dog,” he would say. When he would find himself in trouble after naughty behavior, he would argue: “Well if I had a puppy I would not have done that.”
Of course I knew better. But I had other good reasons for not wanting him to have a dog — my grueling work schedule and my aversion to cleaning up poop. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep a puppy from chewing up everything in sight out of boredom while I was working and with Raff at school. I knew I wouldn’t be able to run home on a whim to let a puppy out to play and relieve himself.
However, as most parents do, I relented.
After much research and debating, I made my way down to southern Arkansas to pick out a Shiba Inu puppy from a litter that was about six weeks old. The breeders wouldn’t let puppies leave earlier than 10 weeks but would allow their future families to come pick the puppy at six weeks.
I instantly fell in love with a chubby but tiny, very sweet Shiba, but also fell in love with his twin who was playful and rowdy. Since I couldn’t decide between the two fur balls, I reluctantly said I would take both.
I kept Raff in the dark about the puppy surprise the entire next four weeks. It was so hard! But finally the day came to go get them. I told Raff we were going on a long drive to meet some new friends. Raff was used to my random road trips so he unquestioningly went along for the ride. I had informed the owners of the surprise, and they happily agreed to go along with it.
When we arrived we were invited inside and shown into the kitchen. After a few minutes of small talk and a quick wink, our kind host excused herself and returned with a ball of fluff concealed in her arms.
“Raff,” I said as I took his hands in mine. “I want you to close your eyes for a minute. I have a big surprise for you.” I said smiling as I kissed his cheek.
He closed his eyes.
“Stretch out your arms…” I instructed.
He did so.
I took the puppy into my arms and placed him into Raff’s. I heard Raff draw in a sharp breath and his eyes popped open. He and his new puppy locked eyes and the puppy lunged forward and licked Raff on the nose. Raff looked at me, then at the puppy, and his eyes welled with tears.
“Raff! Are you ok?” I asked.
“This is the happiest day of my life!” He wailed. He sank to the floor and cuddled the puppy we would call Chibi.
“Well I have another surprise…” I said. And placed the second puppy, Yoshi, into his lap.
His eyes filled with tears again. Raff loved on those pups all afternoon until it was time to go back home, and we placed the puppies into their pet carrier to keep them safe on the drive. Raff rode home with his head halfway into the carrier, stretching his seat belt to the max. He couldn’t take his eyes off of those puppies.
Over the next couple of days, we acclimated our new puppies to their new surroundings. Raff spent lots of time loving on them and observing their behavior. Because he had never had a pet before, he was baffled by some of their tendencies.
The Sunday evening before he started back to school, he asked me: “Mom, why do the puppies lick each other’s butts?”
He stared at me with such a serious face.
“Umm…” I said, not sure where to begin. “Well dogs just do things like that because —“
“Oh, it’s because they’re dog brothers, huh?”
I realized that because Raff was also an only child he had no idea why two dogs, that were brothers, would do that. He seemed happy with his own answer and ran off to play with the dogs again.
The next morning, Raff and I were late leaving the house because we hadn’t settled into our morning routine with the dogs yet. Since he was going to be tardy, I had to walk him into school and sign him in at the front office. Raff rambled on and on about his dogs as we walked up the steps to his school. I just smiled. His excitement and love for his new puppies made me very happy.
As soon as we walked in to the front office, Raff gushed about his puppies.
“Miss Mandy! I got new puppies! I’ve always wanted a dog, and now I have TWO! They are Japanese dogs and one is Chibi, that means small because he’s so tiny. And the other is Yoshi, that means happy because he’s so playful! And they lick each other’s butts a lot but that’s OK because they’re brothers and that’s what brothers do!” he exclaimed.
My eyes widened. Miss Mandy’s eyebrows went up. I smiled sheepishly.
“He’s an only child, and these are his first pets. Clearly we will have to have a more detailed talk about what dog brothers do as opposed to what human brothers do,” I said.
Miss Mandy just laughed and handed me the tardy slip to sign. I hugged him goodbye and kissed his cheek. “Have a good day, Raff, but no more talking about licking butts, OK?”
Raff nodded and skipped down the hallway.
I turned to leave the office and realized the principal was standing behind the front desk.
“Now that’s something I don’t think I’ve ever heard a parent say before,” he said, jokingly.
I laughed and smiled then breathed a huge sigh of relief as I walked out of the big double doors. With Raff, there are always things I hear myself saying that I never thought I would say. I immediately started thinking of ways to explain why the dogs — ahem — showed dominance towards one another. That could be an awkward conversation as well.