Courtesy of Elizabeth Broadbent

How I Knew My Husband Would Be a Good Dad

My husband Bear and I used to foster greyhounds. We would take in a greyhound, often directly from the track, and try to get it to become accustomed to domestic life before it would be adopted by another family. The greyhounds didn’t know about basic facets of Western doggie existence, like stairs or toilets or the magical forcefield of glass doors, and they were often unaccustomed to human affection. I was gung-ho about doing it, but it wasn't Bear's thing. He just recognized that our neurotic German Shepherd puppy needed companionship, and that it made me happy.

Before we first started doing this through an outside organization, we went through an arduous vetting process. Because we were an unmarried graduate school couple in our early twenties, I worried that we’d never be approved. But soon we found ourselves driving through the dark to meet a grizzled old rescue veteran, who handed us the leash to our first hound: a black-and-white cow-spotted dog named Burt. “He’s scared of men,” she informed us. I had no inkling then that Bear’s behavior towards Burt would show me what an amazing father he’d be one day.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Broadbent

Burt was indeed scared of men. He shied away from Bear and pressed against my legs. He learned the stairs immediately when galloped up behind me to the bathroom. If I was on the couch, he was on the couch. If I was smoking on the porch, he was clawing at the door.

This didn’t sit well with Bear, because dogs usually love him immediately. So he began a campaign to win Burt over. I came home from class one day to find him feeding Burt dog biscuits, one after another. He’d snarf one down and Bear would hand over the next. “What are you doing?!” I demanded. “You’ll use up all the Milkbones!”

“I’m just softening him up,” he said sheepishly.

As I watched him win over that shy dog he really hadn’t wanted in the first place, I thought: this man would make an amazing father.

Clearly, the biscuit-giving worked, because that night, Burt didn’t shy away when Bear reached for him. “Who’s a good boy? Who’s such a good boy?” Bear kept saying as he petted the skittish hound. Slowly, Bear took over caring for Burt. He fed him. He gave him water. He took him out to pee. He petted him constantly, played with his ears and stroked his body and baby-talked him: “You a good boy! You good dog, yes you are!” When Burt had an accident, Bear cleaned it up. “So you don’t have to,” he said, because he knew that dog poop made me barf.

Soon Burt was following him to the bathroom, and sitting with him on the couch, and whining for him to come home. He wasn’t scared of men anymore. He adored them.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Broadbent

At the time, I was adamant that I didn’t want kids. I vehemently, seriously, did not want children, because I was terrified that I’d f*ck them up. But Bear wanted kids. Bear had always wanted kids. And as I watched him win over that shy dog he really hadn’t wanted in the first place, as I watched him feed him biscuits and give him dinner and clean up after him, I thought: this man would make an amazing father.

When Burt was adopted, Bear cried. I cried. We had to go out for barbecue to make ourselves feel better, and it still didn’t help.

Bear thrived. He loved having something to take care of. He loved having something to come home to, something to love.

Our subsequent fosters only further proved what a good dad Bear would be. He mostly took over dog potty duties, which involved taking them out on a leash to poop because we didn’t have a fenced yard. He fed them before I woke up in the morning and made sure they had water. Our second foster, Axel, was also scared of men - and Bear won him over in the same way. Won him over so well, in fact, that we adopted him ourselves, as we continued to foster other dogs.

Bear thrived. He loved having something to take care of. He loved having something to come home to, something to love.

This is a man made to be a father, I thought.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Broadbent

Over the years, I reconsidered my stance on kids. First I said OK, we could adopt them. But he wanted biological children, and Blaise was eventually conceived after a long night of drinking. And the first time Bear looked into our son’s eyes, I knew that my initial instinct was right. This was a man made to be a father. You could see it in his body, in the way his whole being leaned toward this screaming red potato. You could see it in his eyes, in the way he stared at the baby. And you could hear it in his voice when he breathed, “My son.” He went on to thrive as a daddy: to equally share everything possible, down to harassing me into letting him wear the baby instead. He cared for his sons gently, lovingly, the same way I saw how he treated those greyhounds so long ago. The dogs showed me he’d be a stellar dad. It just took me several years to come around to the idea.