My kids love animals. Over the years, we’ve collected a menagerie of lower-maintenance critters: fish, frogs, hamsters, even a praying mantis. But my kids wanted a dog.

This posed several problems. One is that three of us are allergic to dander. Any dog we adopted would have to be hypoallergenic.

The second hurdle was my husband. After watching our kids grieve the other critters’ deaths, he didn’t want more drama.

But the biggest obstacle was me. I had no desire to get up at night with a puppy or worry about chewing. The vet bills would surely strain our already tight budget. But mostly, with three kids and a writing career, I didn’t have time and didn’t need the stress of something else to take care of.

But then I started noticing dogs on the street. Kind of like when I started noticing babies shortly before I decided to become pregnant. Uh-oh. Then one morning I met two gorgeous Portuguese water dogs outside a coffee shop. They were sweet and, according to their owner, hypoallergenic and great with kids. Hmmm.

I mentioned this encounter to my daughter, and within seconds she was researching Portuguese water dogs online. She found that they cost around $2,000. Yikes. We couldn’t possibly afford that.

But my daughter had sensed the crack in my resolve. She hounded me day after day. I didn’t have time for a dog, especially with my youngest headed to first grade. No kids to take care of during the day! I could get work done! (This was pre-COVID-19.)

Thinking that I could pacify my daughter, I made a list of all the criteria for me to agree to a dog. My demands were ridiculously specific and – I thought – absolutely unattainable. The dog had to be:

  • A Portuguese water dog.
  • An adult, but not too old.
  • Trained.
  • Inexpensive.
  • Good with kids.
  • Black in color. I like black. Black is slimming.

I figured no one could find a dog that met my specifications. One week later, my daughter rescued an abandoned cat. A neighbor drove her to the local shelter to drop it off. That afternoon, she came bursting through the door, babbling about a Portuguese water dog at the shelter.

Yeah sure, I thought. But I called anyway.

“Yes, we have a Portuguese water dog here,” the worker said. “If you’re interested, you’d better come now because purebreeds go quickly.”

My son and I drove to the shelter. I looked down at a mess of an animal with dark, matted fur. A black nose poked through the chain link and a wet tongue licked my hand.

Portuguese water dog, black, check. She is really cute, I thought.

Outside, she chased a ball with us, gently but enthusiastically. Good with my son, check. I snapped a picture and texted it to my husband, who was out of town.

We walked the dog back to the front desk. Surely this purebred dog wasn’t up for adoption.

“Are you interested?” the worker asked. “She’s trained. She sits and walks on a leash.” Trained, check. Seriously?

“The vet thinks she’s about five years old.” Grown, but not too old, check. You’ve got to be kidding me.

I asked about the cost: $250. Inexpensive, check. (At least compared to two grand.)

A man walked by and pointed to the dog. “Is she up for adoption?” he asked.

I instinctively pulled the furry beast close. “No!” I said. I reached down and pushed black curls from the dog’s eyes. She looked at me, and my heart turned over.

I put a 24-hour hold on her and decided that if my husband gave the okay, we would adopt the dog. My phone buzzed, with a text from my husband: “Is she ours?”

It felt like destiny. Our new dog blended seamlessly into our family and is an especially good companion to me. She sits at my feet as I write. Instead of adding stress to my life, she calms me. We’re two middle-aged ladies who suit each other.

The shelter named our dog Portia. But I changed it to Porsche, because I figure she’s my midlife crisis. I didn’t want a dog, but apparently, I needed one.

–Tiffany Doerr Guerzon

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