We are the house with a lot of animals. Yep, that one. Each time I call my mom to delicately mention we are thinking of adopting another pet, I am met with the same disapproving tone, “ANOTHER dog?”
Let’s be fair, we are only shopping around for our third. It’s not that crazy, but I get it’s more than most. Oh, and we also have a horse. But hear me out . . .
My oldest son has autism and used to be terrified of our dog. She was patient with him, she kept her distance, and she slowly broke down his barriers. She was steady. She was loving. Now, he wants to be a pet sitter when he grows up. I feel so incredibly thankful he has found something that is an actual reality for a job he can do. I know in my bones he can do it. Our dog Izzy taught him that.
I have a crazy horse girl for a daughter. She asked to ride horses at 18 months old. It started with ponies when she was only two. I can still picture her pull-up peeking out of her little jeans as she toddled along. We bought her a pony for her fifth birthday. His name was Bigfoot, and he was my daughter’s best friend. If she had a hard day at preschool, she wanted to see Bigfoot. If she felt sick, she wanted to sit with Bigfoot. Sadly, she had to learn about loss through Bigfoot also. He suddenly passed away last fall.
At 8 years old my son is busy—like so busy. His test scores are really high in math and reading. He loves learning. He loves his mind being busy. He is obsessed with reading the Hardy Boys series—we have read 150 chapters since Christmas when he was gifted the set by his grandma. Every night he wants our little dog, Annie, to sit with him as he reads. We are currently shopping for his own puppy. He has shown incredible patience and good decision-making as we contact the local rescues to find just the right one. He talks about the dog being with him until he goes to college, and then says maybe he won’t go if he can’t take the dog. I told him we would watch it while he was away.
After the loss of our pony, we invested in a baby horse. The most amazing guy. It took my daughter a while to warm up to him after the loss of her pony. He already has taught her so much—he’s shown her how to pick herself up and start again. He has shown her that your heart can be put back together again. He made her love reading—we read to him at the barn once a week. Syver, our horse, has taught my little girl she can do hard things. Reading was hard for her, and she tells me, “When I read with Syver, I feel brave.” She aspires to have a farm one day, one where “kids who have a hard time” can come and be with the animals. She is greatly inspired by having an older brother who needs some extra help. Instead of watching fluff on her iPad, she watches animal rescue stories on The Dodo.
My house is messy. There is a dog crate by the front door that I really should vacuum. Don’t get me started on our front yard in a Minnesota spring, yikes. I have two sets of barn boots in the back of my Bronco. The corners of our floor have some dust and occasional dog hair. Our furniture is old. My husband still gets annoyed that our little dog sneaks into bed with us in the middle of the night.
My house is also filled with unconditional love. You know who doesn’t care if you mess up words when you read? Our horse. You know who doesn’t care if you got left out in gym class that day? Our dog Izzy. You know who will sit patiently while you pour over multiple chapters of Hardy Boys? Our little dog Annie. None of these creatures care if you are cool, have the right clothes, have bad breath, have autism, or had a bad day.
Pets show you a heavenly love. A love that is quiet, patient, enduring. An unconditional, unwavering, loyal, pure love. It’s messy and sometimes inconvenient. It’s work. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.