Daddy’s Boy

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    The little figure on the conference room table squirmed. His tiny nose snuffled at the stale office building air, or perhaps it was the burnt coffee wafting from the break room. Huge malted-milk-ball eyes darted about the room, wide open – almost flirting. It was his first production meeting.

    “Oh, he’s so cute,” my friend cooed. “How precious,” another co-worker said. Then they saw the fleas.

    It was nearly twenty years ago – before marriage and long before babies – when I asked a colleague who was unloading puppies to bring the runt of the litter to work. My plan was to tempt my one-day husband with the black fur-ball who now sat primly in the Nike shoebox on the table. After all, Scott had been thinking out loud about getting a dog since starting his own home-based business several months back. I had watched him very purposefully avert his eyes from the puppy hawkers set up in front of Ukrop’s.

    On this day, when his girlfriend of almost six months presented him with a puppy, he flicked a flea off the little guy’s ear and looked him squarely in the eye. Without hesitation he said, “I guess we need to find a good vet.”

    For a few days after, he listened dutifully to dog-rearing advice and suggestions for names from friends and family. Typical black dog monikers like Midnight, Domino, and Ebony were dismissed politely, before he officially introduced his boy as Rosco.

    The man in my life fell hard and fast into the role of work-from-home dad, training his new little charge. He bought a crate and explained to me why it was necessary to position the cardboard insert so the space could grow with the puppy. I remember how proud he was when Rosco yipped at the back door, then made his way down the deck steps into the yard for the first time without rolling head-over-tail. Like dads will, he bragged to friends about his son’s potty training, high IQ, and natural athleticism. At first he tried to explain the glint in Rosco’s eyes to people who would never fully understand what that sparkle meant, let alone fathom that this dog really could smile.

    We hadn’t been together a year when Rosco came into our lives, but there are times when you just know things. There are signs along the way that help you blaze a trail in a new direction altogether, and signs announcing that you are on the right path. My sign said, This is it. You are meant to start a family with this man! And here’s the thing—until I watched the man who would be my husband fall hopelessly in love with a little black fur-ball he named Rosco, I wasn’t convinced that I even needed to have children to be happy. Back then I wasn’t sure I was ready to be a dog owner, let alone a parent.

    These days, I smirk when my sister tells me that my nephew and his girlfriend got a new puppy, or when I hear that my just-married cousin and his wife took in a rescue dog. I hope they see the signs as clearly as I did. Can a wedding or baby shower be far behind?

    The truth is, Rosco trained us. He was our dry run at parenting, and our only son. His mother was a German shepherd; his father was a black lab. Strong, quiet, smart, patient – he had his human dad’s disposition. Friends who remember him still ask, “Will you ever get another dog?”

    This I can say with absolute certainty: Three daughters later, we were only meant to have one boy. We were only meant to have one Rosco.