My daughter just had her 13th birthday. That’s one of those “kind-of-a-big-deal” birthdays. So I wanted to make sure that it was one that she would never forget, but also because she had a rough year with the pandemic. Honestly, the last couple of years haven’t been smooth sailing for her. With moving to a new state, a new school, and trying to make new friends, it’s been difficult. But she’s tried to keep that spark and spirit she has.

A couple of years ago, my wife and I had told our children that after we moved back home to Minnesota, we would get a dog after we bought a house.

You can imagine my daughter (11 at the time) hung on to those words. Two years later, we are finally buying a house, and sure enough, she’s all about getting that dog we promised.

We told her that because we just bought this house, it was going to be closer to Christmas before we could get a dog. Of course, behind the scenes, I had been trying to work something out for her birthday.

I finally found Karla and My Heavenly Havanese in Foley, who recently had a couple of litters of Havanese puppies. That itself was awesome because they’re very intelligent, lovable, easy to train dogs — but they are also great for allergy sufferers like me.

So now it was time to setup up the big surprise.

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I couldn’t do this on Sunday (her actual birthday) because that would be too obvious. So I thought the day before would be much better.

So that day, we told her we were going out for lunch to one of her favorite places, but dad had to make a stop at a friend's house before going there.

We went for a drive, casually observed the beautiful fall colors along the way, and pulled into the driveway like it was no big deal. I made some casual comments, “I hope this thing isn’t too old and still works,” like I was talking about a piece of equipment I was going to get or something.

We pulled up to the house, parked the car, and walked up to the door. I knocked, and Carla came out with this very loosely wrapped present (of course, we had previously arranged this). My daughter stood there, looking confused. We said, "it’s for you." She took it, not quite sure what to do or say. We told her, “you might want to set it on the ground.” She did and started to slowly open it.

David Black

As she peeled back the wrapping paper, she started to see what was in this package. Her eyes began to well up. The look I saw on her face was one of the best things I have ever seen. That look of overwhelming joy, surprise, disbelief, and happiness all wrapped into one moment. It was one of the best things I have ever seen.

When she realized what was happening, I said to her, “Happy birthday Kai, pick out your dog.” She paused for a moment, trying to pull herself together, and then said: “I’m sorry, I need to take a minute.”

Well, she took her minute, looked at all those cute puppies, and picked out hers. A puppy that she named Mr. Waffles. It’s a name she actually had picked out a couple of years ago, in anticipation of this moment.

For me, to see my daughter’s reaction was one of the best moments of my life.

David Black

She doesn’t get to bring Mr. Waffles home for a few more weeks (which will be the longest three weeks of her life), but when that day comes, it will be one of the best days of her life.

Of course, there will be more stories in the life of Kaiya and Mr. Waffles over the next several years, so stay tuned.