Last Halloween, my 20-month-old son, James, donned a fuzzy brown-and-white onesie and spent the evening barking at the ghosts, witches, and other ghouls out trick-or-treating. When a neighbor inquired after his costume, James simply said, “Mo,” and pointed to the short-legged, long-bodied, floppy-eared creature beside him.
My husband, Matt, and I adopted Mo from a shelter in 2019. She’s the kind of dog whose makeup is a mystery, but if I had to guess, I’d say she’s a mix of dachshund and Rhodesian Ridgeback, with some pit bull thrown in. We had initially wanted an older dog, but when we opened her cage, she ran right up to us, all puppy licks and wiggles, and promptly dropped her squeaky mouse at our feet. I suggested we call her Mo, after my favorite high school teacher. Matt looked down at her and smiled. “Perfect,” he said. At the time, we were also on the waiting list to adopt a baby. The 11 months it took to bring home James were full of paperwork, background checks, health screenings, and social worker visits, but, with Mo by our sides, the process became a bit more bearable. She also added some much-needed structure to our days. When it was just Matt and me, we could stay out late, sleep in, and do whatever else we decided to do. When Mo joined the family, our day-to-day changed: We woke early to let her go outside. We attended obedience school and cleaned up accidents and made sure to never leave her alone in the house for too long. With the added canine responsibilities, we felt ready to welcome our baby. (Yes, we were so naive about parenting that we thought adopting a dog could truly prepare us.)
James came home six months after Mo. That morning, as I opened the front door carrying James, Mo immediately began yelping and wiggling her tail. She ran around the living room, sensing that something exciting was happening. Which, it was: Those first moments with James were love at first sight for us all. As we gathered on the couch, equal parts exhilarated and terrified, Mo saddled up next to me. She licked James’s face, curled up against his tiny body, and hasn’t left his side since. From a pandemic that shut down the world to a cross-country move, through the many tears and tantrums, Mo has been there for every step—including James’s very first ones.
For this year’s Halloween costume, James is currently deciding between a superhero and a pirate. Whatever he chooses, I’m sure Mo will be next to him as we walk the streets, wagging her tail and wiggling her body, happy to be right near her best friend and ready for whatever adventure comes next.
—Lara Prescott is The New York Times best-selling author of The Secrets We Kept.