The December before my parents got divorced, they adopted a puppy. Dekker was my Christmas present, and I couldn’t have been happier. I wanted him to sleep in bed with me, but he was too small to go up the stairs. My parents didn’t want him on the furniture, so I slept on the living room floor to be with him overnight.
As his puppiness progressed, he went from being a tiny and quiet ball of fur to an active and destructive young lad. In the Spring, he dug and chewed the linoleum floor in the kitchen.
“We might not keep him,” my mom whispered to me one night.
“No!” I gasped. “That’s my dog! You can’t get rid of him!”
My dad was able to patch the floor and we moved on from the incident. Dekker’s antics continued to be a source of stress in the home, but that changed in the summer when my dad moved out. As Life As We Knew It ended, the puppy mischief became a welcome distraction.
We bonded around each day’s destruction. We marveled at how smart Dekker was- how he was able to open cabinets and unscrew the lid off the peanut butter jar. He stole our socks, but he also stole our hearts. Always, we forgave him for his naughtiness and there was never again any talk about not keeping him- he was part of our (revised?) family. We even allowed him on the furniture.
Without my dad around, Dekker’s personality began to grow large enough to fill the void. He began “talking” to us, and for us. He said the things we didn’t want to say: “Momma, I ate the floor again.” He tattled on me and my sister: “Momma, The Tara finished all of [her sister’s] pudding pops.” At night, we’d all crowd in my mom’s bed and watch TV in her room. When he wanted to stretch out, Dekker would brace himself against my mom, place his paws on me and proudly proclaim that it was time to “push The Tara off the bed!” And I’d tumble to the floor, laughing.
I often credit my parents’ cooperation through their divorce as the reason I came through it unscathed. But I think Dekker had a lot to do with it as well. He gave us something to come home to, something to focus on… he was something we could unite around and agree upon. He infused joy into every situation simply by wagging his tail. He took us from sad to silly- from frustration to frolicking. And (without awkward conversation) he reminded us every day how much love there was in our lives.
Dogs have a way of reminding us what’s important: food, water, shelter (mostly during thunderstorms) and family (no matter how it’s arranged). When times get tough, they tell us: “eat, play, love and every day is good.” They have a way of forcing us to smile when we otherwise can’t. Through their neediness, they teach us to keep going. I will always be grateful to Dekker for his unique way of shepherding us through my parents’ divorce.