Mom, Dog, Kid: What I Learned While Traveling This Christmas

traveling on christmas
Dena Landon

By Dena Landon | Dec 12th, 2021

Christmas came early for my son this year. Mid-November I picked him up from school and told him we were going somewhere special. At first, he guessed the Lego store, then Target, and then finally I told him.

“We’re going to the Humane Society!” I announced.

He blinked. “Do they sell Legos?”

I explained that no, they have dogs and cats for adoption. I don’t know if he quite understood until we’d parked and gone inside the small building next to a local park. Before heading over there, I’d worried that it would be depressing, seeing so many animals waiting for forever homes. But instead, joy filled the building. We visited the section with the smaller dogs, and he made a bee-line for a small black and tan Chiweenie (a Chihuahua and wiener dog mix).

“I want her!” he exclaimed, curled up next to her temporary home and petting her through the wire.

Even though I insisted he sit and play with one other dog in the visiting room, he didn’t change his mind. She was sweet and loving, curling up in my lap for petting and licking his face. It filled my heart to watch volunteers taking excited dogs on walks, or other visitors choosing a cat or rabbit to take home. The animal’s excitement at finding love, and their new family’s joy, actually made me a little teary-eyed.

The last few weeks have had some challenging moments as we’ve learned about our new family member. We recently discovered that she would climb up on the dining room table while our backs were turned and eat a whole cup of broccoli!

Even though she is “his” dog and C has informed me that while he’ll leave her with me for safekeeping during college, he will be taking her to his first apartment (hilarious, as he’s only seven years old), I needed her, too. She sits on my lap while I write since I work largely from home now. Having a dog reminds me to get up and exercise once or twice a day, and when she burrows under the covers, she keeps me warm at night. I have a week on, week off custody schedule and having her around takes the edge off my loneliness when my son is away.

Many families go home for the holidays, and this year I took C to my hometown, Seattle, for his first visit. The dog went along, trotting down rain-slicked streets like a pro and keeping us company in the hotel room. After two days in Seattle, we flew down to Texas to spend Christmas Eve and Day with Grandma.

The only time I’ve really wondered about my decision to get a dog was in the midst of three flights in four days. She whined a little in the carrier, and on one flight she threw up. I caught it in my hands, believe it or not. Sitting in a plane’s tight seat, my son’s head in my lap while he slept and holding dog vomit I did wonder, What in the hell was I thinking?

I was operating on instinct when I decided to get a dog, as I’ve been learning to go with my gut more and more. I’ll admit that while I’d taken into account the expense – a crate, leash, food, vet bills – I hadn’t thought about traveling with a dog. But if it’s one thing I’ve learned post-divorce, it’s that I can handle anything.

I scraped the vomit into a cup and then rang for wipes to clean my hands. In the airport, my son and I made a great team managing carry-on’s and her carrier. Divorce may have split up his parents, but it’s turned us into an unbeatable partnership. And the dog, named Patchy, is only cementing that bond.

The more I’ve grown post-divorce, the calmer I’ve become about handling life’s challenges. One of the hardest things to handle has been the never-ending nature of legal bills, court battles, and co-parenting nastiness. It’s definitely been a bumpy ride – and I’m not talking about the turbulence that our plane hit over Texas! But our tiny family, mom, son, dog and cat, have made it thus far. And now that we have her love in our lives I know the future will be that much better.

Dena Landon

Dena Landon

Dena Landon's bylines have appeared in The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Salon and more. The proud mom of a boy, she specializes in parenting and divorce.


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