Earning His Love

By Diane Stark

I fell in love with her the moment I saw her. Her huge brown eyes. Her beautiful, reddish brown hair. Her pointy little ears. She looked in my eyes and licked my nose, and I knew we had to take her home.

She was a ten-week-old, four-pound bundle of fluff. They said she was a Pomeranian poodle mix, or Pomapoo, for short. We named her Piper.

The rest of the family was as quickly enamored with Piper as I was. Except for my husband, Eric. He likes animals, but not as much as the rest of us. He agreed to adopt Piper because the kids and I wanted a dog, and he wanted to make us happy. “But she’s your dog,” he told the kids. “I don’t want to get stuck taking care of her. You wanted her and she’s your responsibility.”

The kids promised to be the most responsible pet owners in the world.

Now don’t get me wrong. Eric liked Piper. He enjoyed playing with her, and he thought she was cute. But he made it clear that he only liked her. He didn’t love her. And for some reason, I really wanted him to.

And it was clear that Piper wanted that too. Somehow, she seemed to know that the rest of us were already smitten, but that she’d have to earn it with Eric. Because of his long work hours, Eric spent less time with Piper than the rest of us. This only made her more focused on gaining his attention. From an early age, she began waiting by the front door for him to get home from work. As soon as he came in, she’d jump up and down, beyond excited to see him.

“Hi, Puppy Girl,” he’d say. “Did you have a good day?” Then he’d scoop her up and carry her into the kitchen where I was cooking dinner.

“Why does she love Dad so much?” My kids would ask. “We love her more than he does, but she acts like she loves him the most.”

I was quick to correct them. Pointing at myself, I’d say, “Well, she loves him the second most.”

When she was a puppy, I would place her on Eric’s lap. “Look at her,” I’d say. “Don’t you just love her?”

“I’ll love her when she stops pooping in the house.”

Piper was housebroken in record time.

“She’s such a good girl,” I’d tell Eric. “Don’t you just love her?”

“She’s okay, but why does she have to lick me all the time?” He’d answer. “She gets me all wet. I don’t like it.”

Piper loves to give kisses. She licks the kids and me all the time. But she stopped licking Eric.

One day, Piper was laying on the couch next to Eric. He was rubbing her belly. “I know you love her,” I said. “You just don’t want to admit it.”

He shrugged. “I like her, but I don’t love her. She just lays around all the time. She should play more.”

Piper immediately jumped off the couch and went to her toy basket. She brought back a squeaky toy and dropped it in Eric’s lap. Then she wagged her tail and stared at him expectantly.

“Do you want me to throw this for you?” He asked her in a baby voice.

For the next 30 minutes, he chased Piper around the house, never once catching her. Finally, he sat down next to me, breathless. “Man, she’s fast for a little dog,” he said.

I grinned. “I know you love her.”

He rolled his eyes. “She’s cute and she’s smart. She’s pretty well-behaved. And she’s fast.”

“And you love her.”

Another eye roll. “I really like her.”

I scratched Piper behind her ears. “Daddy loves you, Piper, even if he never says it.”

“I have five kids, and none of them is a Pomapoo,” he said. “I’m not her Daddy. I’m her owner.”

That made me roll my eyes.

Last week, the kids and I went on a road trip, leaving Eric and Piper home by themselves. “Take care of my baby while I’m gone,” I told him.

“You’re taking our babies with you,” he responded.

As Eric packed the car with our bags, Piper could sense that we were leaving. She loves to ride in the car, and she rides along for school drop-off nearly every morning. When she sees us getting our shoes on, she sits down in front of the door so you either have to step over her or pick her up and take her with you. She was parked in front of the door, looking hopeful.

“You’re not going this time, Honey,” I told her.

To my surprise, Eric scooped her up in his arms and scratched behind her ears. “Nope, you’re staying here with me, kid,” he said.

I reached out and patted her head. “You’re in good hands, Piper. Daddy will take great care of you.”

I waited for Eric to say that he wasn’t Piper’s Daddy, but he didn’t say a word.

As I pulled out of the garage, the last thing I saw was my husband holding the Pomapoo he claims not to love, stroking her fur and telling her everything was going to be all right.

My husband adopted a dog because he loves his family. But that little dog worked her way into his heart and earned his love, whether he’ll admit it or not.

Because with people and with dogs, love isn’t about words. It’s about how we treat each other.

To Piper, love means only licking the family members who like it. It means waiting by the front door to welcome us home. It means snuggling with a sick kid and then playing fetch with a bored one.

We all agree that Piper has been a great addition to our family, and we all love her.

Some of us say it out loud. Others just show it.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark

    Diane Stark

    Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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2 Responses to “Earning His Love”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    It is obvious he loves her. I’ll bet he whispered sweet nothings at her while you were gone and I imagine the L word was included.

  2. Rose Ann says:

    Puppies have a way of finding their way into our hearts whether we admit it or not (thank goodness)!

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