As our family evolves, one thing is for sure - our busy home will always be made busier with animals.
Even so, a dog hadn't even been on our radar last year when we randomly started looking at animal rescues and then fell in love with a set of part-Labrador puppies.
We got to meet the runt of the litter to see if she'd take to us.
We brought her home with us July 22, 2015 after signing lots of paperwork and getting to meet her mom, Bree. I felt so badly about walking into Bree's house and going home with one of her babies. But I knew it had to be done - we have to spread the responsibility of caring for a litter around so they all have a chance to thrive and be loved, right?
(Some of us were happier than others about a photo to commemorate the occasion.)
We knew that puppies were lots of work, and we were totally prepared for what typically happened. Only, Galli didn't follow the rules, really.
It took her almost three months to stop having constant accidents in the house.
And even then, when we finally got to stop sopping up wet spots and our house no longer smelled like a public bathroom, we discovered that she had a little more going on.
Whenever we left the house, she would have accidents again. And not just little ones. She would end up covered it her own mess, head to toe, having also flung it around the house, and shed enough fur to build a second dog while relentlessly panting.
After much discussion with experts and some intense googling, we realized that she has canine separation anxiety. And it's so much worse than the human toddler variety. Her entire body goes into a physical panic until she is reunited with her pack again.
This has meant that for the last year, we have been carefully rearranging our lives to suit her.
She attends daycare once a week so that I can run errands and take the kids to do things in places where dogs can't go. Over the weekends, if we have plans, we take her to my mom's house to be in the company of other dogs so she doesn't panic. We try to leave her on her own for small chunks of time - attempting to ease her into being on her own the way dogs typically are during the day. But honestly, I don't know if that will ever happen.
I'll be honest - it's been a rocky year.
Sometimes we can't even wrap our minds around the fact that our life has changed so drastically to suit a dog. We've had to turn down plans and trips, and running out for a spontaneous adventure (even just to the store!) now has to be planned for. We often wonder if she would just do better in a home that was able to take in a second dog.
But at the end of the day, she is a good dog.
She is sweet, loving, and playful. She is so calmly protective of our boys, and is kind (albeit a little enthusiastic) to everyone she meets. She LOVES other dogs. And I mean, ADORES them. Daycare, where she gets to play with about 30 other dogs for hours, is a paradise for her.
She is wild about frisbees - she loves them so hard she ends up destroying new ones in minutes.
She loyally sleeps on her little bed on the floor, right next to where I sleep, where she keeps watch and relaxes as though she's right where she belongs.
She sits, stays, shakes her paw, and will lie down if asked.
She lets her wild brothers climb all over her, and isn't even a little bit fazed by someone being near her food bowl. We could reach in and take a bite (gross) and she would move over to let us.
Sometimes I'm not sure if she knows she's a dog.
And at the end of the day, what I always come to realize is that her problems are certainly not ideal for us, but we are an ideal family for her. Our "pack" is large and busy enough to suit her. I am almost always home, and prefer to be, so even though we'd prefer to have our old freedoms back, our normal state is more home-bound than most to begin with. And I get anxiety, and feel for her in a kindred way.
She may not have a dog pal in our house, but in every other way, we are what she needed.
And, ya know....she's extremely adorable.