Peter stared at her with a slack-jawed expression, horror apparent in his eyes. "You've got to be joking," he spluttered.
Olivia suppressed a laugh. "Relax, Peter. You'd think I'd asked you to dive in front of a bullet or something. Actually, scratch that. I've seen you around guns. I'm pretty sure you'd handle that better." She paused briefly to wish she'd thought to record the moment with her phone, though of course she'd had no idea Peter would react like this. "It's a puppy, Peter. Not a bomb. Generally considered by the average populace to be harmless and, in fact, cute."
"To you, maybe." Peter shuddered. "You know why couples get puppies, right? To practice for babies. I don't want a baby, Olivia. That's what's terrifying – not the puppy, but what it symbolizes."
"Peter. Don't be ridiculous. Sometimes a puppy is just a puppy. Besides, having a child is hardly a decision I'd make unilaterally, much less spring on you as a surprise." Olivia leaned down to scratch behind the offending pup's downy brown ears. "Now, be nice. You're going to hurt Charlotte's feelings."
Peter scowled. "So you unilaterally decided to get a dog. And seriously, Charlotte? That's not a dog name. That's a baby name."
"No babies, Peter. I promise. I'm no more interested in having kids than you are right now. Besides, what's wrong with Charlotte? It's a nice name."
"Nope. I'm nixing Charlotte. She needs a dog name, not a human name. Something like..." He studied the puppy, who was currently lolling her tongue contentedly in response to Olivia's touch. "Mousse."
"Mousse?" Olivia repeated in disbelief.
"Yeah, Mousse. Like the dessert. Come on, she's a chocolate lab. It's perfect." Peter knelt down and began petting the puppy. Olivia could pinpoint the exact moment in time his resolve melted.
"Well… I guess one dog can't hurt," he relented. "Right, Mousse?"
In spite of Peter's protests, the name Charlotte stuck. Within days, Charlotte Mousse Dunham-Bishop became an integral member of Peter and Olivia's little family. Peter discovered that he didn't mind the responsibility as much as he had expected. Having a living creature dependent upon him was still nerve-wracking, especially knowing that he was so much more anchored to one place than before. Not that he had any plans of leaving Olivia, but somewhere in the back of his mind, that hadn't frightened him as much.
Olivia's work had been keeping her extra busy lately, and to his surprise, Peter willingly took on the lion's share of puppy parenting duties. Charlotte was an especially mischievous canine, and she relished chaos and destruction above all. Shoes were chewed, stains were made, food bags were torn into and promptly emptied, plants were beaten into submission. Each time, Peter dutifully cleaned up the mess and reprimanded Charlotte, although he was often tempted to just let it slide and play with the puppy instead. He got up early to walk her, and found that he actually enjoyed it. Of course, walks were always preceded by imbibing copious quantities of coffee, even though the caffeine didn't usually kick in until halfway through. Not that it mattered, since Charlotte directed her own walks anyway.
"Peter," an exhausted Olivia called from the entryway. "Charlotte peed on the carpet again."
"I got it," Peter yelled back. He grabbed the cleaning spray and a roll of paper towels. "Where exactly?"
"Next to Martha," Olivia replied, referencing a houseplant that had been foisted upon her by a vacationing coworker two years ago and never taken back. "I think she's trying to display dominance."
Peter laughed at the sight of Olivia with her hands thrown in the air in frustration, clearly frazzled to her limits by the combinations of work stress and her miscreant puppy. She was in her pajamas with a toothbrush hanging out of her mouth, in mismatched slippers – also thanks to Charlotte, who for some reason preferred Olivia's shoes to Peter's.
Peter patted Olivia on the head and shooed her off to bed. "Go. I got this."
Olivia nodded gratefully and stretched up to give him a peck on the lips, then leaned against his chest. "Thank you. I can't imagine doing this without you."
He knelt down to begin cleaning the mess as soon as she padded off in her ratty slippers, grinning to himself. After a few seconds, Charlotte came nosing up to his elbow.
"Hey, pup," Peter greeted her. "Are you enjoying driving your mother crazy? Huh?"
Charlotte took a moment to look appropriately penitent, and then she started wagging her tail enthusiastically. It was almost an hour later, staring at the ceiling as he attempted to fall asleep, that Peter realized what he'd said to the dog.
Perhaps it was time to revisit the baby discussion after all.