We recently did something I said we would never do. We got a puppy.
I’m not a dog person. Or a cat person. Or a gerbil, turtle, hamster, lizard, fish, bunny, or snake person. It’s not that I don’t like animals. It’s that I don’t like the idea of one more thing to take care of. After my record of keeping house plants alive, I firmly believe that my children have only made it this far due to their impressive ability to cry when they are hungry or thirsty.
And those children (ages seven, nine, and twelve) were relentless about getting a dog. The oldest especially. He has been lobbying for a dog since the first grade, when he read every single dog book in the school library and reported back to me the why each and every breed would or would not be a good choice for our family. In detail. Repeatedly. Did I mention he’s twelve? This has been going on a while. His resolve has not wavered. Mine has.
Fortunately, when I would consider the idea, my husband would say no way. Whew. That’s what I was counting on. For months, maybe a couple years, it went on this way. My husband might say it didn’t sound like such a bad idea, and I’d say that it wasn’t a good time. Fall is so busy with back to school. Vacation is just around the corner. Christmas is never a good time to get a pet. I don’t want to house train a puppy with snow on the ground. Then I’d waver, and my husband would squash the idea with his own reservations–the time, the mess, the cost, the furniture.
Until one day, hubby texts me a picture of a dog his friend at the shelter thinks we would like. Who knew he’d even been talking to his friend at the shelter about a dog? Not me, but I agreed to go check it out. Game over. That one wasn’t the dog for us, but just meeting him set us on a mad hunt to find the perfect doggie. RIGHT. NOW.
For a week, we stayed up late into the night searching rescue sites for our perfect match. We poured over breed descriptions and debated how much like our ideal dog was close enough. We went to three adoption events in two days. In the end, it was all about the ears.
Oh baby, those ears. She had to come home with us. Before the kids even really believed we were getting a dog, we had signed the papers, handed over a check, and had a puppy of our very own. Like peeing on a stick and seeing that blue line appear for the very first time, I immediately panicked. What have I done? That was immediately followed by, We love you so much. Just a tiny bit, I thought maybe those people who talk about their fur babies aren’t completely insane. Having a puppy is a little like having a baby.
1. We had to buy ALL THE STUFF. Having had three kids, I know that you do not need half of the things the baby registry people tell you you need. Even so, the shelter lady had a list of all the stuff we needed for a new puppy, and I–like an idiot–loaded it all into my cart. She handed it to me; I piled it in. By the time we left PetSmart, my youngest child was starting to wonder if she’s still going to get to go to college.
2. You’re never really ready. My friends who have had dogs warned me. It’s a lot of work. Puppies keep you up at night. Your house will never be the same. It’s not like we didn’t know. We thought long and hard about getting a dog. We knew what we were getting into. Still. You’re never really ready because you can’t be. You just have to jump in with both feet and hold on. Learn your way as you go and do your best. It’s all you can do. It’s all your kids or you puppy expect you to do.
3.You can’t spoil a baby. Or a puppy. All those people that told me not to hold my baby when he cried or not to feed her in the middle of the night because I’d spoil him are probably the same people that think I should not have been sitting on my kitchen floor next to my crying puppy’s crate at 3 AM the first three nights she was home. Well, guess what. She feels loved, safe, and secure, and she she sleeps through the night just fine now.
4. People talk stupid to dogs and babies. Though I never would, plenty of people would say, “Oh, you widdle cutie. You da bestest baby in da whole world. You mama’s widdle sweetie pie. Yes, you are” to an actual baby. I would, however, say it to a dog. Because I don’t care about my dog’s language acquisition. If she never figures out how to properly say her “wh” and “th” sounds, I can still call myself a good doggie mama.
5. It’s impossible to remember life without them. Sure, it’s extra work. There are baths and walks and vet visits and training and meals. But she’s a part of our family. If a little extra work–ok, a LOT of exhausting extra work scared us, we wouldn’t have three kids. I tell my kids all the time that anything worth having is worth working hard for. Love is worth working hard for. Kids and puppies. (And husbands, I suppose.)