A few months after my youngest little boy, Benson, was born, I began to wonder if we were finished having children. Four boys in just more than six years has taken its toll on my brain, body and house.
Every wall, every baseboard and every banister in our home is chipped, drawn on or cracked. Our couch is missing all four of its legs. Our fireplace vent is pockmarked with holes from my 3-year-old’s airplane.
Probably at least one hundred times a day I text my husband and say something along the lines of, “I’m going crazy. We cannot have another human join this family,” as my boys raid the pantry for their thousandth fruit snack of the day (which we buy in bulk).
Then a few months ago, I started to get that familiar ache. I would look around and think that there was someone missing. But not necessarily a baby.
I wanted a puppy.
I can’t really describe where this seemingly insane idea came from. Maybe it was because a good friend recently welcomed a gorgeous Bernese mountain dog into her home who quickly became a “Nana Dog” to her kids — and mine! I would watch my boys interact with “Pawnee” and see how she gentled them. They would instantly relax around her. And I so badly wanted that in my home.
I guess my mentality is that if my house is already suffering the effects of young children, why not add a puppy to the mix? I’m already cleaning up bathroom accidents, wiping up spilled food and taking my boys for walks multiple times a day. How hard can it be?
So I began my search. After hours and hours of searching online, talking to friends, and making multiple visits to different breeders' homes and adoption centers, we narrowed it down to two breeds: a Bernese mountain dog or a labradoodle, which is a Labrador retriever and poodle mix.
I found some of the most well-behaved, sweetest labradoodles in Utah who were not only gorgeous but trained, and after almost pulling the trigger, I realized that my heart was with a Bernese.
My husband (who was barely on board with the idea of a dog in the first place) had one stipulation: no shedding. Miracle upon miracle, I found a breeder in Utah who bred her beautiful Bernese with a poodle — a bernedoodle. The easy, calm, sweet personality of a Berner with the hypoallergenic coat and smarts of a poodle. I called her and drove up to Layton at 10 p.m. that night to take a look at her brand-new pups.
The second I saw them I fell in love, and put down a deposit right then and there.
I was dead-set on a girl dog (remember I live with five males already), but after getting to know all the pups, I bonded with a curly-haired boy named Cowboy.
I have always looked at crazy dog-lovers with rolled eyes and a shake of the head. But after choosing my new puppy, I felt like I had maternal instincts toward him. I have been ordering dog crates and beds online, getting our home “puppy proofed” with gates and potty pads, even personalizing his doggie bowls.
My husband pretends not to be, but I can tell he’s a little worried.
One night after I had spent a few hours too long trying to decide which font I wanted on his food jar, my husband, Brad, looked at me and said, “Babe. I'm glad you're so enthusiastic about this puppy, but I can't help but wonder if we could have spent this time on our children.”
That hit me hard. Being a mother is the most important thing in my life. I am always feeling like I could be — and should be — doing more. But a large part of this decision to get a dog was because I wanted my boys to have a best friend, someone that they could just sit with and know, no matter what, they were on their side. I knew that I could easily let this new addition take away my time, so I made it a goal that no matter what, my kids and their time had to continue to come first.
Lots of people have looked at my wild crew, and after announcing I'm adding to it tell me I'm crazy. I guess I kind of like crazy. It may sound cheesy, but I truly feel like our puppy is that “someone” who is missing in our home.
We pick up our pup in two weeks. I know I’m going to be writing a follow-up column, probably with the headline of “After the puppymoon is over,” which will probably be a giant cry for help. But for now, I can’t wait to have a new four-legged best friend.
Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News. Her email is email@example.com.