Making Life a Bliss Complete

Honest and heartfelt stories and lessons about home, family, love, faith, and personal growth.

Meet Charlotte

Jad and I had been content for four years not having a pet. We never discussed even wanting a pet any time soon, and definitely not a dog. A hamster might have been okay when Casey got older. So, how did we end up with a dog, you ask?
Well, in the beginning of March, I got a feeling that there was something missing in our family. My first thought was a baby, but Kamren was still so young (not even a year old), so I knew that couldn’t be it. Then my mind envisioned us with a pet. It felt pretty good. I knew a turtle, fish or hamster wouldn’t work. No, it would have to be a dog or cat, and since Jad and I are both allergic to cats, a dog it would have to be. 
I brought my thoughts up to Jad, thinking he probably wouldn’t agree. Surprisingly, though, he had had the same thought. We were nervous, yet excited, about the idea of adding a new member to our family. And so the search for a dog began.
For nearly a month I searched daily to find our perfect match. I did many hours of research trying to find hypoallergenic (did I mention Jad is also allergic to dogs?), low-shedding dogs that were friendly and playful. I checked into which breeds and sizes were best for kids. I made list after list. I figured out that I wanted a dog past the puppy stage, most likely medium size, and some type of mix of a hypoallergenic dog, like a schnoodle or something.
I started finding options, but many of the rescues had very strict rules on adoption, such as you have to have a fenced in yard, or you have to have a home visit and an interview process. I didn’t like the idea of going through all that. Needless to say, I didn’t easily find a good match for my family.
At the beginning of April, we started dog sitting for two families in our neighborhood. We had a large breed in our home, and then one each of a medium and small breed that we checked on often. It was during those couple days that I really felt confident and comfortable about getting a dog. We loved watching our neighbors’ dog in our home, and my son, Casey, was just so good with her and the other dogs. I knew that a dog would really make our kids, and us, happy.
One evening, Casey told me that he thought he would want a small dog since he got along so well with the small dog we were watching. Well, that changed my search for sure, since I had been avoiding small breeds.
That evening, April 3, I found a posting for a 4 and half month old Shih Tzu/Jack Russell Terrier mix puppy named Lola. These are the pictures I saw:
I fell in love with that face. When Jad got home from work that night, he also fell in love with that face. Lola had a sister named Luna, who looked more like a Shih Tzu, and was also adorable. I figured that Luna would be more likely to be hypoallergenic, but Jad really liked Lola better. I went ahead and emailed Robin at Finding Great Homes for Jack Russells in Greensboro, telling her of our interest in either Lola or Luna.
I could hardly wait to get her reply the next morning. She asked that we fill out the application and then we could come see the dogs they had that day. She said Luna was getting groomed, but we could see Lola. We excitedly got ready to go to Greensboro, thinking that we would be coming home that day with a new dog. 
Our first view of Lola was her urinating on Robin, but Robin just laughed it off and let us go play with her. The kids immediately loved her, especially Casey. She was so playful, sweet, and adorable. It was so fun watching her leap around and play with her toys.
We actually did look at several other dogs. I saw another one I liked, but Casey ultimately said that he loved Lola the best. I had wanted an older dog, but seeing Casey so happy melted my heart.
We were told that Lola would shed, and Jad actually got a little itchy holding her. We decided to do a trial adoption for a couple days to see if Jad could be around her without a severe allergic reaction. We signed the paperwork, and loaded little Lola in the car.
Then we had to go buy her everything she needed – food, leash, crate, toys, treats, collar, etc. That was fun, though not easy on the wallet. At least Petco gives discounts for those who adopt a pet. 
When we took Lola home, we set up her belongings, and tried to help her feel at home. She quickly found comfort under Kamren’s piano toy. For the first few days we had her, she loved sitting under there.
While she hid under the toy, Rigel played in her crate.
It was really fun giving our pup her first bath. She hadn’t been bathed in a while because she had been spayed a few days before. Jad had to put petroleum jelly on her incision.
 Later we took her to play with the other dogs we were watching. She was a little nervous, and kind of hid out on her own. She felt safer having Casey cuddle her.
During the first few hours of owning Lola, we tried our hardest to figure out another name to call her. We thought of names like Oreo, CC (for cookies and cream), Peppermint (or Puppermint) Patty. I was pretty sold on Puppermint Patty, and Casey liked Oreo, but it just didn’t feel right. Then, as we were walking around our neighborhood (mostly carrying her since she wouldn’t walk on a leash), I thought of the name Lottie. I loved that name from the Phantom of the Opera. Casey kind of liked it but wanted to know what it meant. I looked it up and realized that Lottie was short for Charlotte. Casey then exclaimed that he liked the name Charlotte, and that was what he wanted to call her. I wasn’t so sure, but he was. And so, Lola became Charlotte.
It was so exciting having our little pup, and having a new name for her, and having everything she needed. 
There were challenged, though, like teaching her to walk on a leash, which took nearly a week. Having accidents in the house was also a challenge we had to overcome by taking her out every hour. 
The really hard thing, though, was that Jad realized he was allergic to Charlotte. She made him itch around his face and neck. Uh oh. Well, we had told the children that we may have to give her back. We told Casey about Daddy being allergic, and he just wasn’t having it. He said he loved Charlotte and didn’t want to give her back.
It was Conference Weekend. After one of the sessions of conference, on Sunday I believe, we prayed together to see if we should keep Charlotte. I remember feeling a strong impression that we should keep her. 
Jad said his itching wasn’t so bad that he couldn’t function. He just decided not to hold her and cuddle her as much. I was happy I didn’t have to give up this sweet little girl. 
 We were really smitten with Charlotte the first couple weeks. We expected accidents in the house, and things to be chewed up sometimes. She even chewed through our lap top cord. Jad fixed it, and she did it again. It was hard, but we tried to stay patient.
After we had her for a week we took Charlotte to a friend’s wedding reception. Everyone just loved her and said how well-behaved and gentle she was. My friend, Hayley, loved her so much, I thought she was going to take her home. She also surprised us by jumping into the river and swimming around. It was so cute and funny. We were thinking, wow, if everyone just loves her so much, and says all these nice things about her, we can definitely get through this hard puppy time.
We also ordered a lot of stuff to help her not chew, destroy, and have accidents. We got her a doggie bed to hopefully keep her off the furniture (she had been having accidents and chewing on it). We also got her a tether so she could play outside. We had to get her some new, more durable toys too. 
Rigel loved playing outside with Charlotte, or just sitting under the trampoline with her.
Jad had the idea to enclose her a bit in the house too. We got a baby gate enclosure and set it up with her food and toys in it. This worked for a week or two until she started jumping out of it. It progressed slowly. She would really struggle to get out, but one day she just started leaping out. We then got rid of the enclosure.
After a while, it got harder and harder to stay patient. Our cute little dog had accidents in the house several times a day, continued to chew things, and worst of all, she got scared often. She was scared to death of Jad for some reason. He would be playing or talking to her, and she would have an accident on the floor. She was scared of me sometimes too. We figured that at some point she would get over the fear and just needed more time, though it was hard to really believe that. Not long after we got her, we found out her back story was much darker than we were originally told. Even though we wanted to believe she would snap out of it, we weren’t really sure.
The saving grace for her is that she was so gentle with the kids, at least most of them. Charlotte was always so sweet with Kamren, kissing him all the time. She didn’t care when Kamren and Rigel pulled on her or played rough with her. Casey, though, she liked to nip at, sometimes causing him a little of his own fear.
Her beauty helped us hold out too. I mean, have you ever seen a dog with such beautiful coloring?
Every time we thought of maybe getting rid of her, she would do something really cute, or we would see the kids just love and love on her. 
Towards the end of May, Charlotte limped around the house a lot. One day I realized that she had a bad crack in her nail. Jad and I worked together to research what to do for her, and to patch her up. This helped us feel compassion for her. No matter what, Casey was always so in love with his dog.
A few days, later, though, just two months after we got her, Jad and I couldn’t take it anymore. We felt like we were angry at her so much, and it was affecting our home life. I sent an email to the rescue about returning her. This is how I described Charlotte:
She is a beautiful, playful, sweet dog. We love those parts of her. However, she pees in the house all the time (even though we take her out often), gets scared very easily, destroys many things, and sometimes bites/scratches us. We have been trying to train her, and it is going okay, but she is very stubborn. 
Robin, from the shelter, explained that Jack Russell Terriers often play bite. She also told me about a thing called a Thunder Shirt, that is supposed to help with dog anxiety. She said the accidents might have something to do with a UTI, but I knew it was a nervous pee. I had recently read about it online.
Even though we really wanted to get rid of her, our only option, per the rescue’s policy, would be to trade her in for another dog. I wasn’t sure I wanted to risk getting another problem dog, so I got the Thunder Shirt.
I am not sure that the shirt worked. It was something to help us be patient and hopeful again, though. She looked awful cute in it too.
I am telling you, her cuteness and her way with the kids kept us from giving up so many times. The picture above is her running on the outside of the trampoline, chasing Casey around it over and over. It was so cool to watch that. 
A week later we got a break from her as we went to Charlotte, NC for a few days. Casey was on his way out to Utah for three weeks. When we got back, our friends told us that she was so wonderful and a joy to be around. They complimented her on her independence, playfulness and sweetness. We found it hard to believe she wasn’t scared, stubborn or incontinent. 
Then Jad and I got another break from her when we went to D.C. We came back and our cousin told us she was really wild, always jumped on the furniture, had accidents, and even chewed up Rigel’s church shoe. Thank goodness we were so pumped from our vacation that the news didn’t bother us much. 
Not long after we got back from our second vacation, I started to realize something. Charlotte really had improved a lot. She walked great on a leash. She was not getting scared of Jad or me hardly at all anymore. She wasn’t having constant nervous accidents. I could trust her in our yard without a leash because she would come when I called. She was more loving and affectionate towards me and Jad. 
These past few weeks, Charlotte has really evolved into being a cherished member of our family. She is not perfect. She still goes upstairs when she isn’t supposed to. She doesn’t always listen when I tell her not to come in the kitchen when we are eating. She still chews up things periodically. 
However, we have changed. We have worked hard to find out how to avoid mishaps. We have learned to really love her. Spending money on new, stronger toys for her did not bother us because she is a member of our family, and that is what she needed.
Jad and I love spending time with her after the kids have gone to bed. It is a time we do a lot of laughing and smiling. Jad even likes to share his food with her.

Charlotte is a unique and special dog. She can jump incredibly high. She has developed crazy strong teeth and can destroy toys quicker than I could have ever imagined. She gets incredibly excited sometimes and races all around the house. She loves each one of us, and feels so happy when we pet her and rub her. She wants to be everyone’s friend, and gives no shortage of kisses. She just wants to be around her family because that is who she loves.

I think she has changed too. She didn’t always see us as her family. Now she does. 
My whole point of writing this is not just to tell you a story about a dog, but to tell you that my faith has been strengthened from my experiences with her these past few months. I never should have doubted that she was right for our family. Jad and I individually felt that we needed a dog. We were drawn to her picture. We prayed to know if we should keep her. The answer was yes. I know that if we had held on to that answer, that we never would have considered giving her up. I am so grateful that we didn’t, because Charlotte is really the best dog in the world.
Jad and I truly look forward to her growing up with our kids, and being a companion for them, and for us, for many years to come. 
Thank you for sharing!


  1. Jad Al-Bjaly

    You did a great job on remembering many details since we adopted Charlotte. Love this post. Thanks hon

    1. Mandy Al-Bjaly

      Thanks dear!

  2. Lee

    Good article. Make me want to spend time with her. 😉

    1. Mandy Al-Bjaly

      Aw thanks! She is the greatest.

  3. Morris Dean (Moristotle)

    Mandy, thanks for writing this story. I enjoyed it and being reminded how many problems pet ownership can present for people. Animals are people too, so far as I'm concerned, so people of god will – like you – will find a way.
        What was Charlotte's "dark past" that conditioned her response to Jad?

    1. Morris Dean (Moristotle)

      Ha, I meant "good will," but I guess, in your case, "god" will serve.

    2. Mandy Al-Bjaly

      Haha for your second comment. Thanks for reading, Morris. I appreciate your reply. I am not exactly sure how she was spoken to or disciplined by her past owners, but I do know she was living with dozens of dogs mostly outside the inside conditions were so bad, you would never want to go inside. I was told the owners were extreme hoarders. I wish I knew how the owners treated her so I could pinpoint why she got afraid so easily. The good news is, she has learned to trust and love us. We don't need to worry much about it anymore. 🙂

  4. Pingback: My Favorite Love Story | Making Life a Bliss Complete

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