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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Just Three Words

Photo Credit: Virginiamol at
I am a firm believer in the quote, “Never say never.”  It rings true in so many areas of our lives.  I will NEVER do this and I will NEVER do that.  We think we are so firm in our decision and that nothing can ever change our mind.  Right?

However, when it comes to parenting, there are many “nevers” that we might have to take back a time or two - “I will NEVER let my newborn sleep all night on my chest.  I will NEVER let them sleep in our bed.  I will NEVER let my child eat only goldfish crackers for lunch.  I will NEVER let them go all day without brushing their teeth.  I will NEVER wear a shirt with someone else’s food, boogers, and dried slobber all over it.” 

Never say never.

It’s wonderful that we have the opportunity to change our mind.  I think we all try to make the best decision at the time with what we know at the time.  So, another favorite saying of mine is, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

Where is all this leading you might be wondering?  Well, I’ve spent the last month or so doing research on something that I thought I would never be researching.  What was I searching for online?  Where did I visit?  How many countless people have I talked to?

Answers are:  What?  Puppies/Dogs.  Where?  Local animal shelters and pet adoption centers.  How many?  Too many dog owners to count.

I didn’t have a dog or cat growing up.  During my childhood, I had two goldfish named Abraham and Lincoln, a guinea pig, a hamster, two mean rabbits, and that’s about it.  Dogs really kind of scared me as a child and I wasn’t sure about all of the licking, barking and jumping either.  But, basically I knew nothing about them.

However, my children have been fervently asking us for a dog over the last year or so.  My husband grew up around animals all of his life – cattle, dogs, cats, horses, and a donkey, too.  I am clueless in the area of animal care (well, not quite as clueless now…).  He knows what a time commitment and responsibility that many animals can be, but I think he also secretly treasures the memories of the furry friends he’s had throughout his life.

While being open-minded and looking for a great match for our fam, I found that over 60% of U.S. households are home sweet home to at least one pet!  I guess because I’ve never really had heart-to-heart discussions about pets with friends, relatives and other acquaintances, I never realized how many people have them (and love them dearly).

In my search for the right type of dog for our family, I found that pets also provide powerful health benefits, both physical and mental.  Having a pet reduces stress levels and depression, increases longevity and decreases heart disease.  Who knew?!

Studies have shown that rescuing an animal, in particular, is like “volunteering” in the sense that you are helping out another.  And, since we are looking to adopt our puppy from a rescue shelter, the happiness and contentment from “rescuing/volunteering,” combined with the health benefits mentioned above are a cocktail for amazing things, I think!  How cool is that?!

I’ve even had dreams about puppies recently.  This is definitely strange for me.  My husband doesn’t understand my hours of researching and I really can’t explain it.  Anytime I am on the computer and he walks by, pictures of puppies adorn the screen, along with detailed info. about how much and how often dogs eat and what vaccinations they need.  I guess I just want to know all about them, because our puppy will find a forever home with us, when we find the right one. 

And in the words of my dear friend, Anne: “Dogs have their good points, but also come with their own personalities, needs, and maintenance.  I know whichever pup is lucky enough to ‘rescue’ you will have a wonderful home.  Some people say they ‘rescue’ a dog from a shelter.  But, have you ever seen those bumper stickers in the shape of a dog paw that say, ‘Who rescued who?’  I always say our sweetie Elsa dog ‘rescued’ us.”  Hmmmm – very thought-provoking, Anne…VERY.

My other good friend, Chris, is so amused that I’ve called her several times now with dog questions.  Being an avid dog lover, she is willing to answer any and all of my questions about dogs with great passion.  Mind you, Chris is also the one who has gotten me to step out of my “insanely-practical-box” to paint my toenails a color other than red and to own more than one purse (I have two now – well, one and a half - and that’s epic for me!)  She’s ecstatic to put it mildly.  Just plain giddy.

My husband and I have had numerous discussions about this whole puppy thing.  All this communication and decision-making got me to thinking about the whole process of coming to mutual decisions.  I’d like to share some great steps (that really do work) that we learned at our Catholic Engaged Encounter retreat and have used many times since.  These steps can be a guide for big or small decisions – from starting a family to changing jobs to buying a car or home to…adopting a family dog:

  1. Prayer - Prayer opens our hearts and minds to God.  We want God to have a voice in the direction our life is taking.  We can do this by listening to God speaking within us and by being aware of how God speaks to us through others.  We can make prayer a real part of our day – an ongoing conversation with Him.
  2. Gather Information/Consultation – We can gather information from all available resources – experts, trusted friends and family, and Scripture.  When consulting others, this shouldn’t be limited to just those people who are likely to give us the answer we want to hear.  We should also consult those people who may be affected by the decision.
  3. Consider Consequences – Is it moral/ethical?  Who will our decision affect besides us?
  4. Mutual Discussion – We can clarify what is important to us and listen in turn.  We should be open to the other person’s opinion and to options that maybe neither one of us had previously considered.  It’s also important to weigh the severity of the consequences of a decision as well.
  5. Mutual Agreement - This means reaching a point at which we are truly able to “live with” our decision.  It is far more than simple compromise or just having one person win or give in.  Anxious feelings may not always disappear, but if it’s mutual, then we can feel unified and at peace with it.
  6. Mutual Responsibility - This means that we both “own” and support the decision and accept the responsibility for its consequences.  We aren’t concerned with placing blame or justifying ourselves.  If it doesn’t turn out the way we had hoped, there are no “I told you so’s” or “This was your bright idea” because we each have taken responsibility for it.
  7. Re-evaluation - With every decision that we make, we must be open to re-evaluate it either at some specific time, when conditions change, or when we change.  Some situations to which this stage often applies is education, career changes or children.  Whenever a decision becomes life-draining to either of us, then it must be re-evaluated.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell where one part of the decision-making process ends and the next begins, because it is a fluid process and not a checklist.  There may be times when we need to return to prayer if we are unable to come to a mutual agreement. 
I love these steps.  However, I often forget that our knees should be the first place we fall and not the last.  Still working on that.  But, I vow to you, my faithful readers, that I will NOT name our dog, “Naked.”  I saw this funny little cartoon that discouraged that because this statement might be too much for some to handle: “Hey, I’m gonna walk “Naked” around the block.  Be back in a minute!”  Love it!

I’ll keep you posted on the puppy search.  When we see him/her – we’ll know.  We can’t wait for this furry new journey to begin!  So, there are just three words that I want to leave you with – “Never say never.”


  1. What an adorable picture......and another great article for several reasons.....but don't research too much, you might research yourself out of getting a cutie, cuddly, snuggly, chewing, hole-digging, adorable new family member.

    1. Hee hee - yes, I've stopped the research and am now putting it in God's hands. We'll get the right puppy for our family at just the right time - I can feel it! ;-) I fell in love with that precious picture, too! Awwwww!