The decision was made by unanimous family vote around the dinner table. So united were we, that there was no need to invoke the parent’s-vote-counts-as-two clause, as was sometimes the case with these types of decisions. Yes, we were all in favor of getting a Golden Doodle puppy. Research was conducted, contacts were made and a breeder was chosen. And just as I was about to send our deposit money, thereby firmly securing the puppy’s place in our family, a funny thing happened.
Along came Molly.
It was an unbearably warm day in August. With humidity levels hovering around 90% it was the kind of day sane people would opt to stay indoors. But our youngest child Josie, an Irish dancer, was performing at a festival on the banks of the Mississippi and so our attendance, being an all-for-one and one-for-all type of family, was mandatory. Despite the heat, the Irish Festival always attracted die-hard attendees. St. Paul, Minnesota has a large Irish population, and it seemed most had found their way to the event site, dressed in their ‘Kiss Me I’m Irish’ green apparel from head to toe.
During a break in performances, Sam, Nana (my 73 year-old mother) and I reluctantly parted with our seats in the shade to get some refreshments for our group. Cutting across a large field, still soggy from the heavy downpour of a summer storm the night before, we came upon a 20 year-old girl with a puppy, actually a wiry black mop of hair, which was wimpering at the end of a makeshift twine leash attached to a dirty pink collar.
“Cute puppy,” Sam commented as we trudged past her, the heat index making it seem like we were moving in slow motion.
The girl’s eyes lit up as she exclaimed, “Do you want her?”
Before I had the chance to think about it, the word “NO!” came flying out of my mouth, the swift verdict one in which only a mother can deliver. But even at that speed, I could tell it was too late. The one syllable word hanging as heavily in the air as the humidity, Sam was already laying in the wet grass, with the black mop of wiry hair jumping all over him.
“There is no way we can take this puppy home,” I said defensively. “We already decided on a Golden Doodle, and besides, we cannot make this decision without Dad and Josie.”
Content with my sound reasoning, you can imagine my horror when my mom announced with great glee, “I’LL GO GET THEM!” With that, Nana sprinted across the spongy field, dodging muddy rugby players and sheep herding demonstrations to gather the rest of the family. Not sure how Nana could have missed my clear, blame-Dad-and-Josie-because-they’re-not-here excuse, I stood there stunned. Feeling the tension, Miss 20-something took the opportunity to explain how it was that she became the owner of the pup. She proceeded to tell us about a farmer who arrived at the festival that morning with a box full of puppies. He told all sympathetic hearts within earshot that if he was not able to get rid of them, they would probably meet with an undesirable fate, the thought of which she could not bear. But when Miss 20-something caught up with her roommates later in the day, they did not share her enthusiasm toward the newfound addition to their apartment and informed her she must find a different home for the dog.
My head still spinning from her sad tale, I glanced up to see my husband and Josie approaching. Ah, the voice of reason was there to save the day. “Please explain to Sam that we can’t take this dog,” I said, confident that my practical, allergy-suffering husband would never agree to take a puppy we knew nothing about. As I waited for him to say no, Sam picked the puppy up and put her in his arms. Knowing just what do to, as if she had been coached, the 8-week-old pup with the big brown M&M eyes began to lick his face. And then I heard my big, burly husband with the soft heart say just one word.
Molly, the only Irish name we could all agree on, became a part of our family that day, at a time in our lives, as it turns out, when we needed her the most. Sam, who was 12 years-old, was beginning to transition, and she quickly became a true friend when he had no others. A buddy to confide in when he was down…a kind soul to hang out with when classmates chose not to invite him to their birthday parties. And a ball of wagging black fur who met the bus each afternoon, so glad to see him even when he was exhausted from the torments of his middle school day.
Over the last three years Molly has been Sam’s loyal best friend, licking away tears, amusing him with her antics, always ready and willing to run, romp and play. On the days when I no longer knew how to console Sam, his feelings hurt one too many times by people who did not understand his gender variance, she would provide the comfort of an understanding gaze, her mere presence making us both feel better. And I can say with the utmost certainty that she has never judged or made him feel less of a person for being true to himself. She adored him just the same after he got his first short haircut, and didn’t abandon him when we started using male pronouns. Demonstrating genuine affection, she has always loved Sam unconditionally for the person he is inside, something I wish more people could do.
How lucky we were on that hot August day to come upon this Black Lab/Collie mix of a puppy in need of a home. More times than not, whenever people hear the story of how Molly joined our family they say, “So you rescued her,” to which I always reply, “No, she rescued us.”