Serena Cukjati remembers crying over negative pregnancy tests, as she curled up with her beloved goldendoodle, Charlie.
"He would just lay with me," Cukjati, 35, tells TODAY.com. “There were so many low points in our journey to conceive, and he would pull me out of the darkness.”
Now Charlie is getting to make a big decision: whether she should have a boy or a girl.
After being diagnosed with unexplained infertility, Cukjati and her husband, Jacob, turned to IVF, a process she describes as “emotionally and physically” demanding.
In June, the couple, who live in Texas, learned they had three high-quality embryos: Two female and one male.
“We were ecstatic. But all of the sudden we had this decision in front of us — do we transfer the boy or the girl? We just couldn’t decide,” Cukjati says. “It’s a really cool perk, and a First World problem for sure, but it also felt like a burden. It was just too much.”
Then Cukjati’s mother had an idea: What if they left it up to Charlie?
“We both thought it was the perfect idea to let him pick,” Cukjati says. “So many times, dogs get the short end of the stick. They support us when we’re going through a hard time, but when we’re doing well, they’re not as needed. So this was a way of celebrating Charlie, and incorporating him into this new season of life.”
Last month, Cukjati shared on TikTok a video of herself throwing two tennis balls for Charlie. One ball has “Girl” written on it, while the other reads, “Boy.”
“Bugs, are you ready for your big day?” Cukjati asks the dog. “Ready? This is your moment. OK, go!”
Charlie goes back and forth before making his selection, which he drops at his mom’s feet. Charlie’s sister, a Labrador retriever named Kiki, is also in the clip.
“She’s not into fetch so she didn’t really participate,” Cukjati explains, with a laugh. “We’ll involve her in other ways.
So it is a boy or a girl? Cukjati plans to share Charlie’s choice after her IVF transfer on July 25. She says they hope to eventually use all three embryos.
“We’re not going to think about it not working,” Cukjati says.
When Cukjati’s niece came to visit, she asked to throw the two balls just to see what Charlie would do.
"He brought the same ball back,” Cukjati says. “We have both balls laying around here, but he’ll only play with that one ball. He's fully invested."