I vividly remember when I told my parents I wanted to adopt a baby.  My mother and I were driving to a shopping mall in Milwaukee. I was very nervous and blurted out “mom, I have something I need to tell you.” Not sure if that particular moment was the best as she was driving, turned her head and looked at me as if I were about to break the news I was dying of cancer.  Now that I come to think of it maybe that was the key.  When I told her about my desire to adopt a baby she looked so relieved and said she thought that it was a wonderful idea.

My father and stepmom were equally happy and did not question for one moment my decision.  In fact, my dad sent me an email the next day letting me know how excited they were and that they would support me in any way.  

My parents, brother and sisters are equally supportive.  I hope they know how incredibly reassuring this is and it would be tough without their support. 

But, did they always think I’d be a good mom?

Let’s go back in time nearly five years.   I recall making the big decision to get a puppy and being thrilled to tell my family and friends.  Just a few of the many comments I remember: “What?” “Candy, seriously?” And then increasing in intensity… “Are you crazy?!”  “Do you know what this will do to your social life?” “It’s already hard to meet someone.”   Then, because news travels like lighting between my sisters in NY, brother in Dallas and parents in Milwaukee – “Do you think you can take care of a dog?”  “Well, whatever you do, don’t let it sleep with you in the bed…that won’t be good for future boyfriends.” 

At this point, how could I not feel a bit insecure?  Luckily I didn’t take their advice. 

I was so excited the day I drove up to the farm in Cedarburg, WI to pick up Otto, who I proudly named after my grandpa.  I had only seen a photo of Otto and he was the only one left in his litter.  I remember picking him up out of the big crib and holding all 3 lbs in my hand. I was so afraid I’d step on him and couldn’t fall asleep at night worried he’d need to go out. To this day I take him nine floors down an elevator countless times every day.

Otto, the “butt shaker”, brings me tremendous joy.  The way his whole body shakes when I walk in the door.  When he runs wildly in the park and every few minutes stops and glances back to ensure I am still there.  He’s at my side every day keeping me company as I work.  He’s been with me through numerous relationships- he’s as happy as I am to see some go and it is very clear that he is sad when some are no longer around.

The relationship between a person and pet is a very special bond.  I know. I experience it and I have so many friends and even family for whom this relationship may even be stronger than with another human being.  We love sharing stories about our pets- most happy stories, some sad. There is my friend who just became “mom” to her 100 pound St. Bernard, Finn. And my friend, who after losing her cat, finally healed and adopted two cats who now fill her heart.  And then there is Charlie, my friend’s lovable Golden, whose “mom” had to nurse him back to health after she discovered a beer bottle cap in his belly. And, little Ollie, who has turned my friend Patrice, someone who never wanted to have children, into a mom. 

They are all adorable and they all have such unique personalities.  It’s uncanny how many similarities there are between a dog and a child.  The way Otto cuddles with his security blanket and growls at me when I am on the phone at night. My niece, Skyler, may not “growl” at my sister, but she goes to every extreme to get mom off the phone. 

Whether it is a dog, cat or even turtle (yes, I did go to one’s funeral) for some people adopting and raising a furry (or not so furry) friend can be just as fulfilling as the one between a parent and a child.  In fact, according to some people, adopting a furry friend can be just as difficult! I’ve heard there is lengthy paperwork, background checks and even the furry friend home study! I highly recommend PAWS ( or the Anti Cruelty Society ( if you consider adopting a pet.

For many their pet may be enough.   For me it wasn’t.  And, the reality is when I looked far ahead and pictured myself old and grey (well maybe not grey),  I didn’t see myself alone, nor did I see myself with just a pet or only surrounded by nieces and nephews. 

I saw myself with my own family that includes a husband, children and someday grandchildren.  I still do.  It just might not be in the “traditional order”.

Otto will always be my first baby.  I couldn’t imagine life without him, but deep down I know I really want to have children. I just hope Otto is prepared!

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