How We Met
Austin and I met as freshmen in high school. Our lockers were right next to each other as our last names are alphabetically in order. Some might call it fate ;-) I let him cheat off of me in Spanish class in hopes that he would fall in love with me (I was already head over heels- who doesn’t love a boy with shaggy hair in cargo shorts and a puka shell necklace?) He asked me to be his girlfriend on Christmas day in 2010, and we have been together ever since. After graduating high school, we went to separate colleges about four hours from each other. I studied nursing while Austin majored in biology in hopes of getting into med school.
We handled long-distance pretty well and had fun going to each other’s sorority/fraternity events. At my nursing pinning ceremony in 2018, I gave the class speech and then hurried off to find some celebratory cake. I turned around to look for my family and saw Austin holding a golden retriever puppy wearing a nurse costume. Surprise!!! An already awesome day turned even better with the surprise of our new furry baby girl, who we named Winnie. Austin was heading off to med school in the fall and wanted me to have someone to keep me company. Winnie and I spent the next year and a half navigating through being a new nurse and going to visit Austin in Chicago. She was her mama’s best friend and the absolute light of her daddy’s life. Toward the end of 2019, something wasn’t right with Winnie. She was eating very slowly and didn’t have a ton of energy. After lots of testing, Winnie was diagnosed with lymphoma, two days after my 24th birthday.
We had an appointment with an oncologist the next week and were told that even if chemo could get rid of cancer initially, it would inevitably come back and she would ultimately not survive. But, he told us that the chemo would give her some quality of life back and would give us some more time with her (he guessed 8-10 months.) We took her to weekly chemo visits and she seemed more like herself for a couple of months. Austin and I had never gone through anything this difficult together in the nine years we were together; he was completely the rock that held me together during this time. He showed strength that I didn’t know was possible. Unfortunately, Winnie got really sick again; three months to the day from her diagnosis, we made the painstaking decision to send Winnie peacefully off to a better place, free from pain and suffering. We were devastated, but I had never been so sure that Austin was who I was meant to be with.
How They Asked
Austin came home for a little while last summer and said he wanted to go on a date and maybe also do something in memory of Winnie. So, I bought a cheap dress from the mall and got ready to go to dinner. Austin drove us to Lafayette Park in St. Louis, where we had taken family pictures with Winnie before she got sick. He pulled some flowers out of the back of his car for us to plant in memory of our girl. We found a spot in the park close to a playground, dug some holes, and dropped pretty pink flowers into the ground. Then Austin pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and read me a sweet note he had written. When he was done I joked that he should save that for his wedding vows. Now I know what you’re thinking- how could I not have known what was coming?! Well, a few reasons- Austin has been writing me sweet notes and letters since we were fifteen. On top of that, I had been bugging him for a few years about proposing- he had ALWAYS said that he wanted us to live together first, and at this point, we had been long-distance for six years. I pouted at first but eventually came around and agreed that that was a good idea. So, we got up to leave the park and go get dinner. On our way out, we walked down a trail and saw a large box sitting on the ground. As we got closer, I noticed a sign on it that said, “free to a good home!” I looked at Austin, terrified. I was SURE this was some weird trap a serial killer set out in order to lure us to this spot so they could kill us.
Austin encouraged me to look in the box. Much to my surprise, there was a tiny, fuzzy puppy inside who was desperately trying to jump out. I noticed he had a collar on and looked at his tag, which said “Call my mommy!” I looked at Austin like What??? He told me to read the other side. The other side of the tag said: “Katie Mueller” (his last name) and my phone number. My jaw dropped as I realized what was happening. I turned around and Austin was down on one knee with a ring box and a big smile on his face.
Between screams and tears and chaos I said yes and let it sink in that this guy was mine FOREVER (and so was this puppy!!!) I got in the car with my new puppy and new BLING (that Austin had custom-designed with my mama) and went off to Tower Grove Park to supposedly take more engagement pictures. To add to the surprises, we walked into the park to find all of our friends and family ready with beer and pizza to celebrate us!! It was the best day of my life (so far) and I know our sweet Winnie girl was watching the whole time wagging her tail.