She was a 14-pound lab-hound mix rescued with her siblings from a cardboard box on the side of the road in Kentucky. She was lanky and floppy, with big paws and ears she’d eventually grow into. When my husband picked her up and cradled her against his chest, she looked up at him and licked his chin, like she already knew she was ours. We called her Penelope Chews — Penny for short.

I was told getting a dog would be my gateway drug to wanting a baby. There are the obvious joys: When we get home from work, her tail wags furiously and she darts from my husband back to me, splitting her affection equally, pressing her body against our legs and turning her face up toward us, so grateful we have returned to her. When my husband and I take her for a run, she grabs the leash in her mouth to slow him down because I’ve fallen behind. When her velvet ears shift back on her head like a sail adjusting to the wind, or perk up into silky quotation marks, framing what I imagine to be thoughts of, “BONE!” “TREAT!” SQUIRREL!” When the light hits her sleepy eyes, making them into yellow wolf-like slits. When she circles the space next to me on the couch and drops into a tired pile against my thigh. More… “Puppy Parenthood”

Alena Dillon is the author of the humor collection I Thought We Agreed to Pee in the Ocean. Her work has appeared in publications including Slice Magazine, The Rumpus, Bustle, The Doctor TJ Eckleburg Review, and Weston Magazine. She earned her MFA from Fairfield University and teaches creative writing at Endicott College and St. Joseph's College. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and the very spoiled subject of this essay.

I had to have my roof redone a few months ago. The man doing the roof was a man I had just begun dating, and he had his friends helping, doing my 100-year-old 20-pitch, two-and-a-half story house for about half of what my neighbors had paid.


So I cooked. I made hot lunches the six days they were there — barbecued beef on crusty rolls, chicken soup with spinach and tortellini, carved ham and cheese, buffalo wings and pepperoni bread. These meals were accompanied by side dishes like homemade cole slaw, carrot and raisin salad, tortilla chips with cheese. I timed desserts to come out of the oven just as the men were finishing their lunches — chocolate chip cookies, cherry dump cake, brownies, plum cobbler. Each morning I had donuts or coffeecake, muffins or Danish waiting on the kitchen table. All day, I made sure there was a… More…