Undercover Pet Sitters

“I’m sorry boys, we can’t get a dog until we buy the house,” was the usual answer to our kids puppy-plea.  But what they didn’t know was we were in the workings of purchasing the house and the time had come.

November’s paper was loaded with prospective breeders and Shawn and I settled on a Chocolate Lab born in Lititz, PA on October 21, 2003.  We had always hoped to give the boys a Christmas pup but the breeder said he would be ready to come home by the first week of December.  The planning and scheming began for an epic reveal.

“Guess what, boys!  We know someone who wants to give their family a puppy for Christmas and they need some help watching it until then.  Do you think we can help them out and watch a puppy for a while?”

“YES!”  “Oh my gosh, yes,” as only a 10 and 12 year old could respond.  They were flipping out asking all the “when”, “where’, and “for how long” questions.

While the boys were in school one day early December, Shawn and I took a trip to PetSmart to up a crate, toys, bowls and leashes and then off to the breeder for our fresh piece of chocolate heaven.  Knowing what Christmas was going to be like this year tugged on the strings of our emotions, so much so that we were crying in the car with this darling little ball of fluff on my lap.  Saps.  We are both saps.

We stuck with our story and went through the gamut of explaining the ground rules of what “the owners” did and didn’t want the puppy to do (get on furniture, eat from the table, etc.) and how much training he wanted done (Are there really these types of pet-sitters out there?).  They helped walk, feed, play, and potty train.  All month they gave, invested, snuggled, and nuzzled all while Shawn and I would occasionally reminded them of our pet sitting job and how much we are going to miss the puppy when he has to go to his new family.  We had a story and we were sticking to it.  Occasionally they would ask when we could get a puppy of our own and we’d promptly remind them that we would have to buy our house first.  This would settle them down for a while, because in their hearts they knew it would be a while before that could happen.

Christmas Eve morning came and we invited family and friends over for a big Christmas Eve breakfast (I wish we still did these) and the boys had no idea what was coming.  We told them that after breakfast and the grown up gift exchange, they could open a few presents from us.

Break.  OK.  You know that feeling you get when you have a gift to give to someone and you are trying to wait, taking everything in you not to blurt out what they are getting?  Better yet, wet yourself?  Yeah, that.  Times 70.

Excited guests began to arrive and we choked down breakfast.  Partly due to excitement.  Partly because I wasn’t a very good cook.  We passed around gifts to our guests with anticipation and Christmas cheer and they too shared tokens of love with laughter and sometimes tears at the sheer thoughtfulness of each one.  It finally came down to the boys gift from us.  We gave them each a present and in turn they excited unwrapped them, like only little boys can.  One was a stocking in the shape of a dog paw and the other a dog toy.  Confused and maybe a little disappointed that the contents of the packages weren’t directly related to them, they cautiously ripped into a final clamshell box.  In it, there was a note.  It read,

We are buying the house.
The puppy is yours.

Kyle’s mouth fell open into he biggest smile, “He’s ours!  He’s ours?”  I’ll never forget Kory’s quick “yes” and recant in disbelief.  “Wait, are you sure?  He really doesn’t have to leave?”  They scooped up the pup for kisses and pictures.  The puppy was theirs all along.  It truly was the best surprise Christmas, ever.

“We are buying the house. The puppy is yours.”
They were investing time and training into a puppy for a family we knew.  What they didn't know, was THEY were the family we knew.
They invested time and training into a puppy for a “family we knew”. What they didn’t know, was THEY were the family.
Our Christmas Card one year was a photo of our pup wrapped in Christmas lights.  Such a good dog with a keen focus on the treat at hand.
Our Christmas Card one year was a photo of Riley Timber wrapped in Christmas lights. Keen focus on the treat at hand.

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