Most parents, even those of autistic (and yes, I asked my son if he preferred to be called “autistic” or described as “having autism” and he said “autistic”) children, when said children grow up and leave “the nest,” even if it is for a residential program and legal guardianship, celebrate having an empty home.
At least I think they do. I have no real frame of reference here. My “nest” has always been relatively empty. I’ve been a non-custodial parent for 14 years, or rather, I was a non-custodial parent for nearly 14 years. These days I am a legal guardian and my son continues to live with his father, Husband #1, aka Leading Man #3, in New Jersey.
Semantics, or, as (my current) Husband #2 likes to call them, some antics. Either way, my son doesn’t live with me, except on summers, school breaks, and the occasional long weekend. Ergo, no frame of reference for what empty nesters do when their kids leave the next.
Oh wait! That doesn’t make sense either. I have always been an empty nester, haven’t I?
Not quite. I’ve mostly spent the last 14 years proving that you can be a helicopter mom from 200 miles away.
Back to the dog.
Recently, I started working from home. When the arrangement became permanent, The Omen and I agreed we could start looking to adopt a dog. We have always wanted a dog. We had agreed to wait to adopt one until at least one of us was home during the day. Neither my husband nor myself saw any reason to adopt a pet, only to leave it alone for 8 to 10 hours a day.
So I was working from home, and my husband and I started carefully weeding through local adoption websites searching for the perfect addition to our humble home. We carefully chose and eliminated specific breeds, sizes, personality traits. We decided how far we were willing to travel, or have an adopted canine travel to us, for adoption. Hubby and I also made sure we had a vet, a trainer, and a dog walker available and aware we were adopting. We notified our homeowner’s insurance provider and asked about breed restrictions. Finally, we filled out several adoption applications for dogs we were interested in meeting, some of which vaguely reminded me of the 6 or 7 vials of blood I had drawn and tested when I was pregnant with my son.
My husband and I were actively looking for a dog, but we were being fussy. We didn’t just want a dog. We were specifically looking for a dog we knew we could commit to for life, the moment we brought it home. That meant the dog’s personality quirks, ticks, and traits had to match our own.
I often tell my son that he is the product of 2 of the most stubborn forces of nature I have ever met: me and his father, Husband #1. There’s a line I completely until now misheard and misquoted from Rocks Tonic Juice Magic by Saves the Day that describes us: “You and I are like when thunder and the ocean collide.” Husband #2 and I are best described by the CORRECT line to that same song: “You and I are like when fire and the ocean floor collide.”
The rest of the song doesn’t fit any relationship I’ve ever had. Also, thank you to my baby sister for making my Mary Chapin Carpenter and Moody Blues loving self aware pop punk rock bands even exist.
Anywhoo, I thought it would actually take a whole year to find a dog given how fussy LM#2 and I were being about choosing one online to visit in person. I thought choosing a dog would be, for my husband and I, like choosing our home was: check out over a dozen or so before finally choosing one.
It is only technically accurate to say that We adopted The Dog. We found The Dog. I saw The Dog online, inquired about The Dog to the local humane society where he was residing, and, when his first adoption appointment resulted in The Dog remaining at the shelter, dragged The Omen to the shelter to meet him in person. Even so, based on The Dog’s online description, while I did want to meet him, I did not expect to be adopting The Dog. I primarily dragged my husband to the shelter to speak directly with a shelter worker and learn more about choosing A Dog for adoption.
The Dog had other plans.
In reality, The Dog adopted Us, the moment he jumped up to the top of the bars in his pen at the shelter, we were his. It took us another hour or so at the shelter to acknowledge that and pack him into the car. Fortunately, The Dog was patient with us. The Dog let us walk him around and then patiently waited in his pen while we pored over his paperwork and consulted a dog trainer via phone about our concerns. At least I thought that’s what The Dog was doing. In reality, The Dog was worming his way into my heart like my first actual, “I’m an adult in my own apartment” cat, Mandy, had.
When we put The Dog on his leash, he did exactly what Mandy had done when I opened up the crate on the floor of the home I adopted her in: walked right into – my car this time – and came home.
That’s the story of how I was adopted by a one year old boxer named Rocky.