I called Mandy to meet me at the dog park by our apartment so we could take a walk and relax after I returned from my “business trip.” We had a date planned for that evening, some welcome downtime after moving and working the previous week. We were going to hike around the park for a bit, wearing out our dog Luna in the process, then go to dinner and a movie. I casually suggested this last week as if it was any ordinary day.
I went straight from my “business trip” to the dog park and called Mandy to meet me. When she rounded the corner with our dog on the leash, I started to get anxious. I started pacing by my car and Mandy eyed me with suspicion. I only pace when I’m talking on the phone and when I’m nervous. I definitely wasn’t talking on the phone.
Luna was excited to see me because I was away the previous night on “business.” That quickly wore off as she realized that there are many more wonderful scents inside the dog park. She was off bursting into the field and Mandy and I started to stroll around the park. Before she could say anything, I said I wanted to tell her something. I’d been doing a lot of thinking while driving to and from my “business trip” and wanted to express my feelings toward her. I had thought about this moment in my head for months, and I imagined the speech sounding a little something like from a romantic comedy when the Ryan Gosling finally realizes he’s loved the girl all along, and eloquently expresses every one of his 46 different emotions.
What happened in reality was that we got about 20 feet into the park and I ran out of things to say. I already said the “I love you” and “I’ve never been happier” stuff, but didn’t want to get to the “I want to spend the rest of my life with you” part yet. We were still too far away.
I led Mandy down a path we don’t usually take in the park (there’s probably a metaphor there somewhere). I had my arm around her when she noticed a little brown ball under the bench in the park. She said “Oh my gosh. Is that a dog?” I replied, “Nah that’s probably just a piece of cardboard.” We took another 10 steps and she really started to see that is was in fact a dog. “It’s the cutest thing ever. Who would leave a dog tied up like that here?” At this point, I get a jump in my step and race ahead of her. I had to get to this mystery dog first. I also didn’t want Mandy to see my face. It was a mix of excitement, smiling, and horrible acting.
Mandy isn’t too far behind. When I reach the dog, I pretend to meet her for the first time and look at the tag. “Foxey.” That was the name we talked about for our puppy whenever we decide to get one another one. I do my best to act freaked out like David Blaine. At this point, I know exactly what is coming so I start to tear up. I tell Mandy to look at the back of the tag. As she does, I get down on one knee and am waiting for her when she turns around.
She immediately says “yes” and joins me on her knees. We hug for a couple minutes, all the while our dog Luna is running around the park as happy and clueless as can be. I really expected Mandy to cry so I wasn’t the only one, but there was a flaw in my plan. I didn’t think about how overwhelmed she’ll be. On a scale of 1 to 10, she was probably a 14. The happy crying stage is probably a 6 or 7.
We talk and hug a lot more as I put the ring on her finger. We turn around and there snapping away is our photographer friend, Dawn Derbyshire. I asked her to photograph the moment and she jumped at the chance. All of the photographs turned out absolutely amazing.
We all talk for a few minutes and we start to head out of the park, Mandy still processing everything. We bid adieu to Dawn and decide to take a lap around the park to talk about everything. I can finally stop hiding things like I had been for the past few months.
After our lap, we head home to settle down. Luna still has no idea we’re bringing home a new baby. Mandy hasn’t fully realized it either.
We get home and relax and snack on food. I still have a romantic dinner for two of us planned and we have to kill time before that. After that, we were planning to drive out to see our parents and let them know the good news. I remark about how this is probably the most surprised Mandy will ever be in her life.
She says “You still owe me a surprise birthday party sometime.”
We leave for dinner after settling down Foxey. I’m driving us to our favorite sushi restaurant in Pittsburgh, Kiyoshi, where we can finally relax and take it all in. We get there and ask the host for a table for two. I ask for a little privacy because we’re celebrating something. The host leads us into the back room where all of our close friends and family yell out “surprise” when Mandy walks in ahead of me. She looks terrified, but quickly realizes what’s going on.
We enjoy a wonderful, gut-busting dinner of sushi with our very best friends and closest family. I lied to them and told them we were getting together to celebrate Mandy’s half birthday. Evidentally, I’m a terrible liar and they all knew what was really going on. Not much gets past them.
Looks like I don’t owe her that surprise party anymore ;-)
A little behind the scenes
I knew I wanted to marry Mandy in the middle of last year. I told her that to stop the constant if-you-like-it-then-you-shoulda-puta-ring-on-it speil. I knew I wanted to marry the love of my life (Mandy), but I wanted to ask her in a unique way that we would tell the story about for ages. Like be excited to tell our grandkids kind of story.
The way I’d do it came to me when I was drifting off to sleep one night. A puppy. A little golden doodle puppy, Mandy’s dream dog. It would be like a Hallmark commercial, cute heart tag with “Will you marry me?” and everything. Bingo.
I did my research for weeks on the kind of golden doodle to get. You’d be surprised about how many different types of fluffy dogs there are. Cream or apricot. Curly or wavy. Medium, mini, or regular. Male or female. I eventually found a great breeder near our hometown of Pittsburgh and put in a deposit.
Now it was a waiting game. I knew that I was going to propose to Mandy. I knew how. Now all I needed was the prop in our little show. In January, I got word that the mama dog was pregnant. On February 12th, when I was in Canada with friends, I got word that the puppies were born. I got a picture from the breeder right away and the puppies were already little fluff balls and their eyes weren’t even open yet.
When they were born, I knew roughly when I’d be proposing to Mandy. I asked Dawn to photograph everything. I asked Mandy’s father for permission. The pieces were falling into place.
Honestly, the hardest part about everything was deflecting Mandy’s constant, and I mean constant, hints that she wants to be engaged. Actually, “hints” is probably the wrong word. More like flat out suggestions that she wants a ring. I had to lie for over 6 months and pretend not to be interested in wedding planning or engagement ring shopping. Every time the topic would come up, I’d roll my eyes and try to change the subject. I wanted Mandy to be truly surprised and I think she was.
I’m looking forward to seeing what surprises she has for me up her sleeves :-D