It’s been almost exactly one year since we brought home our lab/boxer mix, Stella. Our lives have changed pretty significantly since we adopted her, but they’ve changed for the better. She was just 15 pounds when we brought her home, barely bigger than my cat Tilly. Now she’s a whopping 75 pounds! We just had to buy her a new XL dog crate because she outgrew the large one.

Here’s how this big puppy turned me into a full-blown dog mom…

I’ve always wanted a dog of my own. When D and I were looking for houses, I wanted a house with a fenced in yard so we could someday get a dog. We ended up buying a house with just that. So just a few months after we moved in, I started looking for dogs. We knew we wanted a puppy. Since we already had two cats, adding a dog to the mix would be a huge change and might stress them out. So we thought it would be best to get a (small, non-intimidating) puppy who could grow up with the cats and learn how to get along with them.

We realized quickly that we could not afford to buy a puppy from a breeder, since they cost $500-$1000. Not only that, but there are so many homeless dogs in shelters that it didn’t feel right to purchase one instead of adopting.

I started looking at petfinder.com almost every day, and emailing D links to dogs I liked. I think he started to get quite annoyed with me! I applied for a few local shelters and went through all the steps. Most of them require filling out a lengthy application and providing references, vet records, and more. The rescue we ended up going with, Paddy’s Paws, even required a home visit. As much as these steps inconvenienced me, now that I have a dog I wish all places were this thorough for anyone wanting a pet. Pets are hard work, and if you don’t have time to fill out an application, you don’t have time for a pet!

Anyway, after a few months of looking, I found the perfect puppy. She was a 4 month old boxer & lab mix, the result of a purebred boxer’s tryst with the neighbor’s lab. The boxer breeder couldn’t sell mixed breed puppies, so they gave the litter to the rescue. This particular puppy had two different colored eyes – one brown and one a piercing blue. Her name was Harley, and she and her sister Harper were in a foster home in Texas. I knew D would love her because of her two different colored eyes, called heterochromia. All of the dogs he had growing up had had heterochromia. Sure enough, I was right. He saw her and fell in love!

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A couple weeks later, we went out to Fort Atkinson to pick her up. She was so happy to see us! I never liked the name Harley, so I had to think of a different name. Stella seemed very fitting, because her one bright blue eye reminded me of a star.

Having a new puppy at home was a big adjustment for us, especially with two cats. Luckily she was mostly house trained when we got her. Stella was generally pretty well behaved. Once she got used to us and the house, she started getting bolder. She jumped on people and dug holes in the yard, but that’s normal for any dog. The main issue we had was that she would bother our senior cat, Marley. Marley was already in fragile health, so we would try to keep her away from stress (and Stella) as much as possible. It was not easy though, because Stella was NOT good at taking the cats signals to stay away.

In December, Marley passed away at 14. It was a devastating loss to all of us, but especially to my husband who had cared for her for 10 years. However, that’s another story. Having a puppy kept us busy and helped keep our minds off Marley’s passing. It took time, but Stella helped us move past the loss because we needed to focus on caring for her.

Before we knew it, we had a 75 pound bundle of energy on our hands! Raising a puppy has definitely had its ups and downs. Even though we both had dogs as kids, that was nothing compared to raising a puppy on our own. But here we all are a year later, and I couldn’t imagine life without Stella. She’s goofy, dramatic, and so friendly toward every person and dog she meets. It’s impossible not to fall in love with her!

P.S. If you’ve read this far, you might as well follow Stella on Instagram!

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