The Lessons I Learned From Bringing Another Dog Into Our Family

Learning to manage a new family member, one shoe at a time.

Sid's dog Sully
Photo: Courtesy Sid Evans

One of the least original things we did during the pandemic was to bring home a puppy. This was in the spring of 2020, when the experience of quarantining was still new. Like many people, we were looking for a diversion—anything to take our minds off the news. We already had a dog we loved, an easygoing Jack Russell terrier named Rocky, but when some good friends of ours in Charleston, South Carolina, said they had a litter of Boykin spaniels on the way, it seemed like fate. Our kids, bleary-eyed from online school, sparked to the idea immediately, making empty promises about how they would feed and clean up after him. In no time, we convinced ourselves that Rocky needed a friend and that we were destined for a new family member. For some reason, I decided we should ask for a boy, and eight weeks later, we brought home the furry, brown creature we call Sully.

Rocky was the first one to sound the alarm when the new guy took an interest in his beloved tennis ball. The Boykin clearly didn't understand boundaries, despite Rocky's bared teeth and menacing growls. My wife, Susan, came to the same conclusion when he started destroying her favorite shoes, one after the other, preferring them to a dozen different chew toys. He enjoyed eating socks, too, particularly dirty pairs that the kids left lying around, though his victims also included flip-flops, dog beds, magazines, towels, sofa pillows, cardboard boxes, and my son's new AirPods, which he somehow managed to extract from their case.

I don't mean to focus on his less charming qualities, because we do love him. He's also handsome, with floppy ears, pleading eyes, and spiky hair that recalls the eighties rocker Billy Idol. As I worked from home for more than a year, he was often curled up at my feet during virtual meetings, wrestling with Rocky, or bounding around the yard chasing bugs (his favorite hobby). Looking back, I'm not sure how we could have gotten through the pandemic without him, though we'd certainly have fewer stains on our rugs—and several more pairs of shoes.

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