Saturday, January 9, 2010

Man's Best Friend

I think I've been worked.

Somehow, over the course of a seemingly benign evening with family friends last night, I found myself bombarded on all sides by assertions that it's time for us to get a dog and assurances that it would be the best decision we could make for our family.

Yeah right, I said--and then later found myself plopped in front of looking at all the different breeds suitable for children and a cat.

I should probably back up and say that ever since Kashmir passed, Josh has been scoping the internet for Bengal kittens and sending me links. There is a noticable void in our house now that Kashmir is gone, and while I don't mind sitting with the absence for a while, Josh is eager to fill it and bring our home back to its once comfortable level of fullness.

Fastforward to Thanksgiving weekend when I arrived home from a social engagment to find Josh and my parents watching a Hallmark movie about a family with a special needs child that agrees to bring a dog home from the local shelter over the holidays. In theory, the family will return the dog to the shelter after loving it through Christmas, but of course, they fall in love with the dog and the dog with them, so in the end they, of course, keep it. I caught the last thirty minutes of the movie, and if I were even remotely interested in owning a dog, I might have been tempted to run out and find one.

But I was not even remotely interested. For a number of reasons.

For one, a dog is a serious commitment. Cats don't mind our comings and goings during the day, our weekend jaunts to the mountains, or even our longer excursions to Mexico or California. They miss us, sure, but they are content as long as they have someone to clean their litter boxes every few days and to ensure an adequate supply of food and water. If it's a short enough trip, we can simply leave several bowls of food and water out, and they're fine on their own. Then when we return, they grace us with their presence and affections. And did I mention they reside full-time inside, eliminating any opportunity for fleas or ticks or other pesky afflictions to disturb our household? They even bathe and groom themselves. In every way, they are creatures of self-sufficiecy, and with two small children, I appreciate a creature who can take care of herself.

A dog, however, has to use the great outdoors to relieve himself several times during the day. This requires actually thinking about and planning my day around yet another dependent's needs. Dogs need exercise, grooming, training, space, socialization, and far more accessories than a cat: leashes and crates and beds and chew toys and bones and treats and collars and flea treatments and tick repellant. Dogs make messes. The idea of even having to think about four paws walking into my house on a snowy or muddy day makes me roll my eyes in exasperation. Imagining gobs of fur and drooly messes and insistent neediness and demands for attention leave me wary and doubtful and, frankly, content with our dog-free existence.

And yet, I haven't been able to stop thinking about this idea of a canine companion. Of how grounding a dog is to a family--and to children, especially. Of how sweet it would be for the kids to have an animal in the house that doesn't frighten at Abby's excited squeals, that would welcome their well-meaning if misguided affections, that would grow to love and protect them like family. And I think it could be good, really good, for Benjamin in particular. There's something so right and pure about the notion of a boy and his dog--and I must not be the only one who thinks so as it is a motif that shows up often in literature and film and life.

So in spite of my protests last night, I've spent the last twenty-four hours chewing on this mind candy. What about a dog? Josh and I actually spent most of our spare minutes today researching breeds and looking at animal rescue sites and talking about the implications. I've caught myself daydreaming about this sweet creature laying by my feet in the basement as I type away at the computer. We even let the kids in on the action in a totally casual, Hey, come look at these cute dog pictures kind of way. And by the time he went to bed tonight, Ben said, "I would like to have a dog live in our house."

Which pretty much means I'm toast.

IF we get a dog--and I will continue to use that non-committal word until a true decision is made--we'll get one at least a year or two old to avoid the incessant energy and mischief of puppyhood. We're looking at breeds lauded for their child-friendliness and sweet, affectionate natures. I'm trying to assess how I feel about introducing more mess into my life. This is no small consideration given my neat-freak nature, but some trade-offs are worth the sacrifice. At least I think that's what my perspective is supposed to be.

In the meantime, Josh's birthday is Thursday, and I'm pretty sure the only thing he wants is a dog. I thought for sure I had at least a few more years before the petitioning for a puppy began from the kids. Who knew I'd be assailed by the grown man in the house long before the idea had even seeded in the kids' minds?

But here we are. And perhaps this would be the best timing. We're home a lot right now, tied down by naps. We have lots of energy and love to give. It could be perfect.

I can't believe we're falling for the cliche of man's best friend. May we be so lucky...

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