Clara, Cleo (that’s going to get confusing) and Xavier

Dear Cleo,

On Monday night I said we absolutely couldn’t get a second dog. I was getting texts about that from Jess Cigelske while I was in class. I thought this was a joke.

We already have our hands full! Two kids and one dog is enough!

And dogs are not a one-time purchase. All the things to get and keep getting, never enough, not enough and never ending.

Annnnnd right now you’re sleeping next to me on the couch as I write this. Bella — up until yesterday our only dog — is snoring at my feet.

I don’t know what happened.

But here we are. Here and now.

I’ve got much to think about.

Jess, Clara and Xavier picked you up yesterday from Brew Beagles, the same rescue group that Bella came from eight years ago.

You should know how much Clara wanted you. She pulled out all the stops:

Clara cleaned up her room, helped get dinner ready, set the table, brought me beer, drew photos of you, and made a list of the top 10 (or 11) reasons why we should get you.

The list melted my heart, but the fact that her drawing looked like the “this is fine” dog wasn’t exactly reassuring.

Then the foster family called on Wednesday night and said they’d be driving to Illinois and that other families were interested in Cleo, too. Did we want to make a decision now?

Clara kept asking me: “What’s your final answer, yes or maybe?” She would not take no for answer.

“SHE WALKS LIKE A DREAM!” Xavier piped up, repeating the talking points he’d heard.

Meanwhile, Jess tried to bribe me with homemade cookies.

It seemed crazy, but felt right to me, too. As the lone hold-out in the family, I gave in.

Since you moved in, you’ve been amazing, even though everything around you is new and different.

You are a 6-year-old retired hunting dog from Michigan. Until you moved in with your foster family, you never lived indoors.

You look like you’re skin and bones, literally half the size of Bella (who could lose a few pounds). You don’t know how to be carried, like you’ve never been held before. You sit in my hands kind of limp and awkward.

When I saw how vulnerable you were, it’s impossible not to want to protect you and care for you.

Even though I grew up on a farm with outdoor dogs, it now seems very weird to have a dog that finds the indoors so foreign.

At first, you didn’t know how to navigate a house. Rugs confused you. Steps were a puzzle. You didn’t even know how to go inside and outside a door.

But it’s amazing how quickly adaptable you are. You look like you walk with a purpose, even though this is your first day in the neighborhood. When we walked to pick Clara up from school, you walked straight ahead, unlike Bella who was distracted by every smell around her.

Snuggling comes natural to you. You’ll lay on the couch and put your snout in our laps.

It makes me feel a little guilty that I said we absolutely can’t get another dog.

Five days ago at this time I wasn’t even considering a new dog. Now I’m leaning toward that post-kid cliché that it’s hard to imagine life without you.

I’m glad you came to live with us. Welcome home, Cleo.

PS Yes, part of the motivation to write this letter was to make ’90s alternative references. I’ll explain that to you someday on one of our walks.

Educator. Podcast addict. Wrote a book about creativity:

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