puppy dog eyes


“OOh, Mama!” Katie squealed as we rounded the corner toward the pet shop. “It’s puppy play time!”

“What the heck is puppy play time?” I asked. My words landed somewhere between her back and the pet shop door that was already closing behind her as she ran in.

Puppies were everywhere. Katie looked at me breathlessly as one careened past, grazing her leg. “Mama, aren’t they just the cutest things you’ve EVER seen?” she asked.

Truthfully, I wasn’t terribly moved. I don’t mind dogs. I like them far more than their feline counterparts – but I’m just not one to go weak in the knees over them. “Sure, honey,” I answered without much enthusiasm. “They’re very cute.”

Earlier that morning, Splooshy the fish had passed into the great fishy beyond. Katie had assured me that she’d be OK this time. “Mama,” she’d said soberly. “I’m all right. I’ve been through this before.” She assured me that Splooshy would now have the chance to meet his predecessor, Spaulding in fish heaven. And approximately forty-five seconds later, she made me promise we could go to the fish store and get a replacement. So there we were.

Katie was in all her glory, hanging out on the floor between a Shitzu and a Chihuahua. Bored, I turned around and looked at the puppies that were still in their enclosures. Sitting there looking back at me was a five-month old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

And I was done for.


For years, Katie has been begging for two things – a dog and a cell phone. This post is not about why she’s not getting a cell phone. Suffice to say she’s NINE. Right. So no cell phone. That one’s easy.

But a dog is thornier, more complicated.

Luau has been pining for a dog since the day that I met him. We even thought about it early on in our relationship, but it just didn’t seem right to leave the poor little thing alone in a tiny apartment all day. So we fantasized about the day we’d finally get one. Or two. Yes, it was two. As soon as we had a house and a yard, we’d said. Then we’d have a dog.

By the time we had a house and a yard, we also had a baby on the way. We didn’t move out of the city until I was very pregnant with Katie and by then it just didn’t feel like it made sense. So we’d wait until the baby was old enough, we’d said. Then we’d have a dog.

One baby quickly turned to two and before we knew it, the babies were toddlers and then the toddlers were children. And one of those children happens to have a profound fear of dogs. Maybe when the kids are much older, we’d said. Then maybe we’d have a dog.

Over the years, friends and family suggested that the best way to help Brooke through her fear would be to bring a dog into the family. While I understood their logic, I firmly believed that having a dog in her house would have been torture for my girl. I couldn’t possibly fathom why we would CREATE so much more anxiety for her in the one place that we try so desperately to RELIEVE her anxiety. It just didn’t make sense.

Until now.

Things are different. Brooke is different. She is still anxious. She is still afraid. She still scrambles up our leg when she’s sees a dog coming near. But it’s different. There are words. There’s logic. There’s communication and understanding. And above all, there’s something I never saw coming.


Katie and I left the pet store, but the little Cavie just wouldn’t leave me alone. He haunted me. I even named him. Charlie. I started trolling the Internet, learning as much as I could about the breed and their typical traits and demeanor. Sweet, loving, fantastic with children. I was quickly headed over the edge.

Despite my best efforts, we couldn’t manage to get an appointment with a local breeder on Sunday, nor did the local shelters have anything remotely similar or even suitable. So we decided to take a very risky trip to the pet store. I explained to Katie in no uncertain terms that this was exploratory only. That we would NOT be bringing a dog home with us. That there are a million reasons why one doesn’t buy a dog from a pet store. And then I told myself. Exploratory. Not bringing a dog home. Million reasons. Got it.

We piled into the car after lunch and headed out to the shop. It was pouring rain and the day thus far had been tumultuous at best. Brooke was on edge long before we ever stepped foot in the door. The timing couldn’t have been worse.

While Luau took Brooke to wander through the fish and frog tanks, Katie and I asked to see the little Cavie. They brought him out and let him sit with us on the floor. Charlie showered us in kisses. Katie was in love. So was I.

It took some convincing to get Brooke to come over to see him. She insisted on staying on Luau’s shoulders and asked him again and again to stand up high. He gently refused, trying to get her accustomed to at least some proximity. She hooted and howled when Charlie came too close. She shook anxiously when he approached the water bowl near where she was standing. She finally managed to touch his back gingerly while I held him, but she had no interest in going anywhere near his head.

Over and over again she said to him, “It’s OK, doggie. Don’t be afraid.”

She was giving it everything she had.

When it was time for the little Cavie to go back into his enclosure, we stood up. Luau and Katie left the shop, headed to a nearby store where she could use the ladies’ room. Brooke and I roamed around the pet store, looking at the various types of fish. She was staying close to me, warily peeking over at the dogs to make sure they were secured in their enclosures.

After a few minutes, Luau popped his head in to let us know they were ready to go.

And as we walked to the door, my sweet, frightened little girl – the one with the profound fear of dogs – said the last thing I ever expected to hear from her.

“Can Charlie come home with us?”


To be continued …

43 thoughts on “puppy dog eyes

  1. I just KNOW that you are going to be joining me, pixie, and carrie in getting a dog! Ha! Roc too was afraid of dogs, and he still is afraid of BIG dogs–but he LOVES our pup. It was a good decision–I hope you go for it!!!!

  2. Exact same situation in our house except it’s the younger one pining for a dog and the older one who’s terrified (but still wanting his sister to be happy as long as the dog doesn’t bother him). I have a feeling part 2 of this story could have a profound effect on my family’s future….

  3. Yay!!! This better end with a new puppy or I will have a big temper tantrum!

    BTW, Jess, how are you NOT moved by the sight of puppies? I find that very disturbing…

  4. I am nearly in tears. And can hardly wait for part 2. We have the same dog fear in this household and that is just a fantastic story. Just like all your stories. Just awesome.

  5. OMG – that’s awesome! I can’t wait for part two. Any chance you’re going to post two in one day? Please oh please?

  6. I am a total dog lover, and I have to tell you- they’re wonderful when they’re babies- and hell on wheels when they’re 10-11 months old.

    I had a dog who was the love of my life and about 8 when the children were born. She taught them to walk because they would pull up by pulling on her hair and she would walk forward while they toddled sideways. She didn’t like children, but she LOVED mine. She protected them, and they adored her.

    But we just got a spaniel mix puppy last year because our beloved Cody died two years ago at 15. Bailey is cute and all, but takes almost more energy than I have sometimes. When Ray is melting down, or we’re needing quiet time and she wants to play, my irritation is directed at her more than I’d like to admit.

    That being said, the dog does distract us from some of the other things. When she puts her meltingly soft head on my leg and gazes up at me with complete adoration, my heart melts. I have cried on her more than one time. I can throw her and the children outside to “run it off”. And she’s great company on my walks. Would I do it again- get a puppy with two high-needs children? I’m not so sure…

    Good luck and lovely cliff-hanger!

  7. OOOOH get the dog get the dog!! We have a Cavachon which is a Bichon and a King Cavalier Spaniel mix he is the best dog I have ever owned! Smart sweet lets my 9 year old Aspie dress him in Build a Bear clothes and tote him where ever she feels the need. And he lets my 2 year old autistic sweetness lay all over him without a peep. Go get Charlie NOW!!!!! lol!

  8. Tears here. I was not a dog person either until a few years ago. Dogs were ok but I didn’t understand them. Had zero desire for a dog. Cats I understood. Got cats the second we bought our first house. One of those cats, my beloved Sapphire, lived for almost 17 years and changed my life(she was a very dog-like cat I would later find out).

    It was the DD that caused us to bring our first dog home too. As soon as she was old enough we got a Chi and named him Scooby. I fell hard. He absolutely stole my heart. I’ve been a dog person ever since. How did I live four decades without a dog?!

    I’m not comfortable with eye contact, but I can effortlessly gaze into the eyes of a cat or dog. The connection that is so very difficult for me to make with humans is instant and strong with animals. People might not warm up to me or like me much, but animals love me.

    What I can’t achieve with humans I CAN achieve with animals. Might not seem like a big accomplishment…connecting with pets. Who can’t connect with a domesticated cat or dog, right? But it IS a big deal when that connection is the only connection you have that is strong, comfortable, and effortless. I have to think VERY hard when interacting with humans. Wears me out. With animals, it’s totally natural and a healing balm.

    Sorry for the long comment, but I’m bursting with excitement and hope that you might get a pup. Like Profmother said, it can be a challenge at first, but well worth it in the long run. I think Brooke’s world is about to change in a big way…and for the better! On pins and needles here!

  9. This is worse than “All My Children” on a Friday afternoon (a toxic habit I gave up in the mid 90’s). I cannot stand it. We brought a puppy home in January and I am completely in love with him. I call home just to find out how the puppy is doing. We march him to puppy class every Saturday morning and we spend Saturday afternoon combing the aisles of pet stores buying just the right things for him. I can barely bring myself to leave him every morning. We did (at obscene expense) bring in a personal trainer for Bridget so she could learn how to control him (she would run and cry when he chased her which only got him more excited) but it was money very well spent. I am rooting for the girls and Charlie!!!!!

  10. Oh no, I hope you didn’t go the pet store route. I can give you so much info. on how this promote deplorable puppy mills (where pet store dogs come from). Did you try petfinder.com and did you search Cavalier King Charles RESCUE? There are groups for every breed. Well, whatever you decide, remember that I was a long time obedience instructor and can help you all along the way – puppy raising is a LOT of work!

  11. I KNOW if that is a picture of Charlie he is at your house. He has a sweater on!!!! Looks like a RL sweater 😉
    Cavaliers are really, truly wonderful dogs.

    If you get him, can I bless him?

    Also, I have a dear friend in the congregation that had a little girl terrified of dog, like Brooke. So, they had a specialist come and work with her, and then they got a giant poodle (yes,giant) and their little girl is so happy with the doggie, that, oh, they got another. Giant. Poodle. If you need a contact for that, let me know.


  12. i keep clicking on your site today just to see that puppy face. look at that puppy face! aaah! cuteness overload. i’m usually averse to cute puppy faces, but that one…too much.

  13. Jess, We lost our siberian husky of almost 15 years this past month. I am already looking around on petfinder like a lost soul 🙂 That face is priceless and I cannot believe you are making us wait until tomorrow!!!!!


  14. i have a feeling that by the time we next read your words, the girls will be the proud owners of a whole darn litter!! lol. i agree – i’m surprised that you’re not a dog lover- you seem like you’d be curled up on the couch with 3 great danes :). nonetheless, i hope you guys found just the right little canine soul for your home – or there will be restistupid to pay!!

  15. Like most, I’m rooting for the pup! Our dog definitely brings joy to our Aspie son, and their bond is wonderful to witness. I know not every child is ready (on or off the spectrum) and not every dog is appropriate for every child, but when the two work together…it’s an incredible experience. Good luck, Charlie and Brooke!

  16. Hello, my name is Debbi. I have two children, one with cerebral palsy and a chromosome disorder.

    We have been talking about getting a dog for a long time. I am still not sure what is right for my family, but I sure want to read more about what you did.

  17. yay for Brooke! Damn…same story going on in this house. Little B in all his angst and worry desperately wants something safe to love and be friends with – first asking for a baby, then a cat and now, after a couple of positive and not as scary dog experiences, a dog. I can’t wait to hear how your story ends. Can’t wait!! Maybe it will help us decide!!! ha!

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  20. Pingback: Patrice E. Athanasidy: Puppy Power | Autism News and Daily Updates | Autism Daily News

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