Minus 30, with cabin fever sinking in, is not the ideal environment to bring a new puppy home to.

Add to this, the fact that we are notoriously cluttered and already owned a dog, a cat, and eight chickens, and some would say we were setting up for disaster. Nonetheless, such was the environment in our home on the day we had agreed to pick up a 6-month-old puppy named Alfie from the Humane Society Yukon.

Sure, we could have postponed due to weather conditions, but I felt a twinge of guilt knowing Alfie had already spent four weeks behind bars; two at the local maximum security facility (aka the Whitehorse Animal Shelter) and two at the local minimum security facility (the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter). So, with our older dog and our cat already fighting over indoor turf, and our kids spreading Lego all over the house, we introduced an untrained, hairy new animal into our home, and, into our family.

One of the main reasons we wanted a second dog, was to be a companion for our beloved 9-year old German shepherd cross who, now that we had children, was no longer the “only child” enjoying our undivided attention. But would they mesh?

“I’m not sure if my older dog will kill him!” I admitted to Selina the approachable and knowledgeable staff who had been assisting us at the shelter. “Bring him by for a visit, Alfie’s very friendly and trainable. He even likes cats,” she assured me.

Trainable, eh? The future tense of this verb was not lost on me. We had spent months training, and doting on, our first dog with – what I now realize – was a lot of spare time. Now that time was more fleeting, were we up to this challenge?

Alfie cried the whole 30-minute drive home from the shelter. Literally. He cried so much my husband had to stop the car… twice! Paradoxically, he was rather quiet his first few days at home. Did he know he was “on trial”?! (Mae Bachur had offered us the option of fostering Alfie before permanently adopting him.) After a while, he livened up and acted like the 6-month-old puppy that he was. There were some tense moments, some standoffs with the cat and many nips to the heels of running children. However, we all fell in love and, after much family debate, renamed him Chico (in the hopes he wouldn’t get too “grande”).

Chico and Hugo took to each other immediately and have become the best of friends! Chico respects Hugo as boss (no pun intended). Hugo, who had really aged in recent years, has come back to life with the companionship of another dog. There’s an extra wag in his tail and the two play tug endlessly.

I guess sometimes the right dog appears to you at a messy time. No doubt, it would have been easier to bring him home on a warmer month. We lost some sleep, some Lego pieces, and more than $100 in Christmas lights and extension cords (mistaken as chew toys).

We’re still training Chico amidst the chaos of raising young kids. All that said, a year has passed and he has become a part of the family, loved by all of us on most days… and tolerated by my 5-year-old and the cat on other days.