I always knew I wanted to be a mom.
When my husband and I first met, I got a glimpse of motherhood when I was introduced to his then 2-year-old son. He’s now 14 and an incredible young man.
When I was 25, I had been dating my future husband for a few years. I was ready to tie the knot and eventually have more children.
Looking back, getting married and having children at that time in our lives would’ve been crazy. We had just started our careers, and we didn’t have money set aside for a wedding, let alone a baby.
But we saved for one thing: a dog.
Buying a dog is something I often recommend to people who want to have kids but don’t know if they are quite ready.
Actually, we bought two dogs, but that was not our intention.
After searching the Humane Society and a few shelters, we found two rescue dogs at a kennel — a place we wouldn’t have ordinarily looked for a pet.
The dogs were pricey — normally $1,000 or more — because of their breed, rat terriers. My husband joked to the kennel worker, “Do you have anything used?”
When we were introduced to one of the dogs, she practically jumped into his arms.
Dotty instantly became our girl.
We took her home for a fraction of the price at $150, and 10 days later returned to the kennel for the second dog, her sister Laverne.
A couple had purchased Laverne but brought her back because they thought she was a crazy, panicked dog. The kennel worker assured me this was not the case. She was a sweetie who missed her sister, he said.
And he was right.
He wanted Laverne — whom we renamed Layla — to have a good home so he gave her to us free of charge. We sometimes joke that she’s our clearance puppy like on the film “Marley and Me”.
Eight years later, these beautiful girls have taught my husband and me so much about parenting.
I learned how to clean up after my babies when they were sick, show compassion for something so innocent and pure, and be responsible for someone other than myself.
As a couple, we learned how to love one another more. The girls became an important part of our family.
One of my favorite memories is when my stepson returned home for the summer to meet his new dogs. I’ll never forget his cheerfuly giggles. Layla (or L for short) became his dog. She became a much calmer dog because of him.
Soon after we had our daughter, Liv.
When we brought her home from the hospital, I watched these silly, hyper “rats” turn into protective older siblings.
Watching Liv grow up with our dogs is something I will always treasure.
Sure, we gave them a home, but my dogs gave me so much more. They taught me how to be a mom.
Jen Schneider is a middle school teacher and mom to two children.
Read her blogs every Tuesday on momaha.com
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