My kid is goofy. He’s kind, he’s sweet, and he loves a good cuddle. He’s the kind of kid that is made for an equally goofy, sweet and cuddly dog. The kind of dog who will let you lie on top of him for an hour while you watch Saturday morning cartoons. The kind of dog who’s a little rambunctious, who likes to run around outside for a few hours.
As life would have it, the dog that my kid has is quite the opposite. Sure, he’s sweet when he wants to be. He’s kind(ish), and he definitely loves to cuddle (when it’s time to watch TV). But he kind of hates it outside, and after about five minutes into our typical walk, he’ll stare at you until you pick him up and carry him the rest of the way home. His dog, Ron Weasley, is a funny, fickle little monster.
Ron Weasley came into our lives quite unexpectedly, by way of my sister’s dogs—a Pomeranian and Chihuahua. We already had one dog, a black and white mutt who we adopted before our son was born, and we weren’t looking for a second dog. In fact, the idea of a second dog was frankly exhausting. But as it goes, sometimes the exhausting, unexpected turns are the ones you’re meant to take, whether or not you go into it with your eyes open …
Our son was born two months early, in a flurry of surprise and love and drama. He spent his first year contending with a hard-to-explain bleeding condition. When he was around 18 months old, we noticed that he walked on his toes on one foot, and when he was 2 years old, an MRI confirmed a diagnosis of mild cerebral palsy. He rounded out his medical adventure with an asthma diagnosis a year later.
Since his cerebral palsy went unchecked for the first two years of his life, he walked on his toes during that time and his joints were tight as a result. After a few rounds of physical therapy, the idea of tendon lengthening surgery was floated. We panicked at first (don’t forget the bleeding condition) and eventually decided to opt for a surgery and recovery plan that would be closely monitored by our son’s hematologist.
The day of the surgery was agonizing, and the recovery was almost worse. Any parent who has sent their child behind doors they can’t walk through can relate to the feeling of simultaneous helplessness and overwhelming hope. We didn’t have a lot of agency in the events of the day. We’re not religious, so we didn’t have anyone to pray to. The best moment was when our son woke up after surgery, but it was also the moment when we realized how much pain he was in.
Around that time, my sister called and mentioned that her dogs had had puppies. She also discussed her upcoming trip to see us—the surgery was a few weeks after our son’s birthday, so the timing synced up. Wouldn’t it be so sweet to give him a puppy? She wondered. An impossibly tiny, ridiculously adorable, reddish puppy with sweet eyes?
Of course it would be, I answered. What else could be better?
I don’t think I asked my husband what he thought as much as I casually dropped that, oh by the way, when my sister gets here she’ll have a dog with her. And oh by the way, that dog is staying with us forever. And then I launched into the “What will we name the new tiny being coming to live with us?” game. It took my husband and I weeks to come up with one single baby name we both liked, so naming anything in our house is usually an experience.
After flying through a few names I liked because they were funny and not remotely applicable, like Creed and Rocky, I started cycling through Harry Potter characters (this also happened when I was pregnant). My sister had sent a photo over of the dog’s tiny face and strawberry blonde fur, and all of the sudden we realized: we were going to have a Weasely in the house.
Ron Weasley arrived a few weeks into our son’s recovery. At that point, he was sporting a pair of walking casts that he loved because his friends could write their names on them, and that garnered us more than a handful of “how could your child have broken BOTH of his legs-slash-what kind of parents ARE you” looks in the grocery store. It was the perfect time for something fuzzy to come his way.
Our son immediately loved Ron Weasley. His infatuation was strong and true; Ron Weasley appeared to be the summation of all of his dog-related dreams, primarily because he was cute and fuzzy. Ron Weasley, on the other hand, took a beat. He had found himself in this new place, surrounded by new people. The two of them had recently experienced their own traumas—surgery for one, parental separation and a cross-country flight for the other—and each had a lot to work through. What better way to do so than together?
It was slow going at first. Our son had to learn how to take care of a small dog, and Ron Weasley had to learn how to let a small person take care of him. Soon enough, Ron Weasley would follow our son around the apartment, cuddling up on the couch for cartoons and adapting to our general schedule. It didn’t take him long to learn that bedtime meant hopping onto the foot of our son’s bed and nestling into the waiting pile of stuffed animals for story time.
As a parent of a recovering kid, my maternal feelings were in hyper drive when Ron Weasley arrived, and I was often the one who woke up early with him in the morning when he didn’t want to sleep alone. I also stayed up late with him on the couch when he needed a warm body to burrow into. I took care of our son in a similar way, and more than once it felt like I was parenting two slightly-delicate creatures at once.
Ron Weasley is now 4 years old, and he and our son have had dozens of adventures together. Ron Weasley isn’t overwhelmingly fond of the beach, and it probably surprises no one that he hates the snow and is genuinely concerned about why anyone would want to stand on ice, ever.
He’s a little fussy and a little needy, but he’s totally okay with being dirty and has great adventures exploring under apartment buildings and running ahead of us on hikes, kind of like our kid. Ron Weasley and my son are alike and they’re different. They’re friends and they’re foes. They’ve healed alongside one another, and in those first confusing weeks of pain and relocation, grew together in a way that was pretty sweet to behold.
Ron Weasley the Harry Potter character was, and is, a gift from one benevolent being to the rest of us. Ron Weasley the dog might be a bit of a mess, but he’s also my kid’s best friend.
Stephanie Kaloi is a writer, editor and photographer living in the Bay Area with her family and ever-growing brood of adopted pets. She is a fan of all things Harry Potter, road trips and copious exclamation marks.