by Shelly Preszler

Ok, I’ll admit it… I’ve become one of you; and you know who “you” are. For the past several months I have found myself driving around town with a puppy in my front seat. I know this comes as a major shock for those of you who know me well. I have never been a “dog” person. There, I said it out loud; heck, it’s even on paper now. I thought the rest of you were, well, too put it nicely, a bit crazy. But, that was before Zoey.

Our kids had been begging for a puppy for the past two years. We always managed to sabotage their requests with adequate reasoning and responses. The interrogation process: “Mom and Dad, can we please get a puppy?” To which we would always reply, “We have too many kids!” They would counter, “Half of them left for college and far as we can tell they aren’t coming back any time soon!” The discussions would go on and on. Excuses were made about not living in the country and they would state, “What about our empty lot?” They promised to walk it, feed it, and even do the doggy clean up.

Finally, we actually dog-sat this past spring and low and behold, the kids actually followed through. They walked, fed, and played with Sadie. We actually prayed that the owner wouldn’t want her back! She was completely trained and a mellow dog too. I even became a little attached. My husband, though, still wasn’t completely sold on the idea. My kids prayed and pleaded more.

My daughter, Katie, found herself at a Prom supper in April. Ironically, what do you know? The owners gleefully showed us their very pregnant black lab that was due any day. Later that night that momma gave birth to eleven puppies. So our daughter went to Prom, and you guessed it, we came home with a puppy…

Well, we actually, waited and visited those little puppies over the next two months. Peggy had one picked out for us, the survivor of the group, the runt, and the one who almost didn’t make it. She had nicknamed her “Frankie” because she was such a little fighter. Needless to say our Katie fell in love with that little puppy and “Zoey,” found her way into the back of our car and into a corner of our hearts.

IMG952083 It has truly been a joy watching my kids and even my husband interact with Zoey. I have to admit our three college age sons were a bit surprised to see that we had succumbed to the younger kids’ puppy pleas, but she has even grown on some of them too.

We took her to puppy training classes and I even learned a tip or two for my kids. Imagine my embarrassment when returning home from class one night and I had managed to leave the leash hanging out the back end of my car. It sure didn’t look so great for me as one of my friends came out of Target at the same time and spotted the limp leash. It’s not what it looks like I assured her. Sure you’re enjoying your new puppy, she mused. Hmmm…

Zoey has also managed to bring the neighborhood kids together as they love to play soccer with her. Even the trick or treaters asked if they could come back and play with our puppy the next day. She sure seems to have a calm disposition, which is very refreshing in this controlled chaos we call home.

I have found a great running partner too. I no longer need to rely on untied shoelaces for a running break. Thankfully, Zoey takes plenty of breaks of her own! My husband has also enjoyed hunting with her; and she managed to be the only dog that found a pheasant that the other dogs missed. (I know I just sounded like one of those honor roll moms bragging about her child.)

I have often heard dog lovers describe how therapeutic animals are, another claim I had always questioned. Until recently when I was having a rough day and Zoey quietly sat beside me. She obviously offered no advice, (none that I remember) and didn’t try to solve the problem. She just sat and let me hold her. I need to remember how comforting it is to just sit with a friend in need.

So, yes, Zoey has made a dog-lover out of me. We are on a buddy system- a treat for her and a treat for me- for good behavior throughout the day. Our kid’s laughter warms my heart as they play with her. Most days you can spot us driving around town with her or walking her in our neighborhood. She may even make it on our Christmas card this year! It seems I’ve become one of “you” and I couldn’t be happier.

Shelly Preszler resides in Mandan with her dog, Zoey. Oh, and some humans, too.