Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Caught Somewhere Between Bringing Joy To My Daughter's Heart And Running For The Epi Pen

Sophie wants a dog. In the worst way.

She has been diligently asking for one for the past year or so. First we told her to wait 'til we moved, then we'd consider it. And now...well, now that we're settled, we're saying she needs to be a little older, a bit more mature before she takes on a responsibility of this magnitude. She keeps pressing us on when. "When will I be older to get a dog, mama?" Usually we can distract her. ("Look! I hear a firetruck!") But it's getting harder and harder to divert her attention to non-pet subjects. Maybe it's because every. stinkin'.person. in our neighborhood seems to have a dog. And they keep parading them by the house, all cute and tail-waggy.

Yesterday she was out in the yard, cuddling a roly poly and an earthworm. Calling them her best friends. Promising to love them both forever. Until the roly poly decided to play dead. Or maybe, whoops, he's not moving. And he seems to be missing a midsection.

She then focused her care and affections on the earthworm, asking for a blanket to protect him from the chill of the evening. Perhaps a glass of water to quench his thirst, and something to nibble on, so he wouldn't be hungry. ...Yep. It was about that time, give or take two minutes, that the earthworm bit it. He died a good death, I guess. Floating sunny-side-up in a Big Bird bowl beside a piece of cracker.

Here's the deal. Neither Russ nor I have ever really been gung-ho Pet People.

(Shush, Auntie Em! Your commentary privileges on this subject have been revoked.)

We both had pets growing up. Or pet (singular). But as adults we've shied away from the idea of pet ownership.

For me, there was Noodle (an English Sheppard I had from the age of two 'til I was fourteen). She was a good dog. Faithful. Obedient. Sweet. Big personality. I liked knowing she was there when I wanted to play with her. There, outside. She had her stomping grounds - wallowing happily in the flower beds when mom wasn't looking, chasing the cows in the pasture and eating poo, curled up in a cozy ball on the front porch under the swing. Likewise, I had my comfy hangout places INside the house. Along with allergies and a severe disliking for all things hairy on my clothes and the furniture. Inside pets were as foreign a concept to me as inviting a pack of squirrels and armadillos to come build their nest in our living room. People were inside. Pets were out. And never the 'tween shall meet.

Russ grew up with lots of animals. LOTS. 'O. ANIMALS. Dogs and cats everywhere. There was always a huge entourage that would come romping up to greet anyone who pulled up to the house. And another pack (hunting dogs, maybe?) that hung out on the porch. Lazy, like big, slobbering carpets. But again, all of them lived outside. Only after he went to college, did his mom turn into a Pets Inside Person. Now, there's a happy menagerie of yippy rat-dog chihuahuas inside the house, ready to pee themselves with glee whenever a visitor walks in the door. They jump up and pile on the couch with you and sleep dreamily in the bed beside you. I won't pretend to understand why that's enjoyable, but I know I'm in the minority. Lots of people think it's awesome! His mom does. And her house, her crazy little zoo.

Even now, with my own house and rules, I can't imagine diverting from the way I was raised. I just don't know how to flip the switch to become a cohabitate-with-animals kind of person. As much as I might like to, the thought actually kind of gives me the heebie-jeebies. (Eck, the hair!) Russell, being the easy-going person that he is, I think could go either way. Pets, no pets. Inside, outside. I don't think having a pet inside would totally wonkify his world, if I wanted one. But based on previous conversations, I know he prefers a pet-free house. The absence of pet odor being a plus high on his list. He's a clean gent, my husband.

I guess we're just missing that part of our brains. Never have we had a hankering to knit a pet a sweater, stroll it around the neighborhood, wrap it tightly in a blanket and cuddle with it on the couch, or refer to it as our "baby" or "other child". (Not that there's anything wrong with that, Jerry!) And, now as adults, we kind of like the idea of keeping our relatively small, relatively well-manicured backyard poop and hole-free.

Add to that the fact that I sneeze my brains out on the floor and sprint for the Benadryl if a cat so much as looks at me, much less rubs up against me. And there you have it:

A whole gob of reasons why nary a pet can be found in this family unit.

A fact which equals one sad little three-year old. One who stands with her nose smooshed to the window and watches all the dogs on leashes trotting perkily by. One who begs the owner at the park to pat the dog on the leash. Always grinning from ear to ear and saying afterwards, "You're a nice dog! Can I get one, please, Mama?" (She runs the two sentences together, like one thought.)

And that's the part that makes me sad. That's the part that makes me want to consider trying to become a Pet Person.

Lately the requests to add to our threesome have included: a hamster, a turtle, a fish, an iguana, a bird, and a snake.

No, no, no, no, no, and just kill me now, no friggin' WAY!

I know. We're huge killjoys.

BUT...If I were to agree to a pet, I would want it to be a dog. At least a dog doesn't eat its young, spread disease, live in nasty water with floaties in it, do that freaky something-large-is-stuck-in-my-throat maneuver with it's tongue and neck, scratch or peck anyone's eyes out, or scare the holy fright night out of me when it escapes its cage and coils up on the living room rug.

Nor does it walk through its poo and then jump up on the dining room table. Sorry, all 'ye cat lovers out there, but admit it, aren't they snobby little toots? I'm of the opinion that a pet should run to the door and excitedly greet you like a long-lost friend. Not look down their noses, like, "Well, aren't YOU disgusting!" as you clean out their litter box. And, I mean, seriously, tell me another animal on the planet who would be allowed to eat that sticky, glumpy cat chow goop out of a Waterford crystal goblet, like some felines I know.

So, dogs? That's, I guess, where we land in this little discussion. Anybody got any suggestions for making happy two non-pet-lovin' parents and one pet-fanatic little girl? Is there such a thing as a non-shedding, non-chewing or hole digging, easily trainable, mellow (to an "awesome weed, duuuude!" degree), outside-loving, child-friendly, allergy-friendly, almost-human dog with shockingly good breath, who will pick up its own poo?

Not that I'm picky or anything.

Edited to add: I just came across this on one of my favorite blog sites. Scott has some dog suggestions. Dear sweet Moses! I about chunked up my Egg Mcmuffin.


Robert (Bob) English said...

If you goto the humane society, they can tell you which dogs probably have the temperament you're looking for. It's always nice to save a dog, and kids have fun going and looking at the dogs. Make sure and ask them which dogs they have are child-friendly...oftentimes they know.

Border collies and terriers are high energy, and terriers tend to bite and bark.

Smalle dogs usually have the "small guy" and Hitler personality...bite first, ask questions later. They're out to prove that they're tough.

Believe it or not, a really, really good dog (for kids too because these dogs are so gentle with them) is a Great Dane. They look like horses, but they are very loving and are great with children. Everyone I've ever met that has a Great Dane has nothing but praise for them.

Another good dog is the Golden Retriever, but they shed more.

We have a Norwegian Elkhound (from the pound), and she is awesome with Jillian, but she is a Northern breed and sheds as much as a Husky. We keep her hair cut so that we don't have to mess with that problem (note: those who disagree with dog hair cutting, sorry).

Remember though, indoor dogs need to be walked, otherwise they can get destructive (breed-dependent). So probably 30 min walk a day would be a start.

All kids lover boxers and labrador retrievers, but boxers drool enough saliva to fill a trough (not sure you want that) and labradors are lovable yet fairly dumb too (they'll tear up furniture if needing to rid of excess energy).


Hope this short essay helps some. I'm no dog expert, but I do have 1 dog and 4 cats and lots of stories.

Kritter Krit said...

Did you notice the link at the bottom of the post that I just added?

See? SEE why I'm scared to get a dog????


Thanks for the suggestions, by the way. All excellent advice. =)

Russ said...

I am sure Emily will weigh in on this, but "No Indoor Dogs!"

Kritter Krit said...

EMILY doesn't have a dog! And I can't imagine her having one even when her kids were growing up.

What's up with that? ...I think she just likes to torture us, don't you?

Anonymous said...

We are in the EXACT same boat with little Katie. Except, she has wanted a dog for 8 long years. Chris may be breaking, may be bending on the issue, though. We have all taken to praying about it - that God would send just the right dog, at just the right time, for just the right price (pretty Chris has Katie researching dogs and gathering all info she can on the care and training of such a creature. Sophie is much younger and you and Russ may be more opposed to a furry friend than we are - but your post was eerily familiar. We have been having conversations about this for weeks. I don't have a solution for you but I wanted to say "I feel your pain".

Kritter Krit said...

I thought of you, Jen. I'd been wondering how you guys had escaped Dog Ownership for so long. I thought you might have some suggestions for standing firm!, but it sounds like you guys may be caving soon too. It's hard not to! As much as I DON'T want to add a critter to the fam, it's hard to resist those little pleading chitlin' eyes, and their promises to "love, love, love and take care of it forever". Ugh.

Mark said...

As you know...Mam-ma Jane would be glad to let Sophie come over and play with Mandy any time.

Plus she could use the help trying to keep a 9 week old golden retriever puppy distracted from destroying and peeing all over the house. ;-)

Kritter Krit said...

Yeah, puppies definitely have the cute thing working for them. That "fat puppy" noise. Aw.

Unfortunately, that's also when they're at their chewing/peeing/tearing-stuff-up BEST.

Maybe Sophie can just be happy in her role as "aunt" to Mandy. You think?

Anonymous said...

I am adicted to your blog...

This is a list of low shed dog breeds and descriptions of their personalities...Cairn Terriers and West Highland White Terriers are great...really bright...easy to train...great with kids. Both tend to be readily available in NWA as well!

Anonymous said...

Oh! and Cairns are Toto from the Wizard of Oz and Westies are Cairns, but white....

Anonymous said...

Well, you got Noodle when you were 2. Meme and Becky brought him down to Florida. We had a small backyard, but I don't remember the poop. Of course it was there, I just didn't have time to notice. Border Collies cannot be beat for children---loving, sweet, loyal, lovely mid-size dogs. I still think Sophie is a little young. But, you did make that promise. The question is: Can you do all the upkeep w/o going bonkers? Plus, whenever you come home, you'll have to get someone to feed it, etc., preferably a neighbor. Would a goldfish do at this age? (I immediately envision Sophie trying to pick it up and cuddle it!) Love, Mooms P.S. Not on the subject, but I had a horrible dream last night involving you, me, and spiders.

Lora Lee said...

You should just bite the bullet and get that precious girl a dog. You don't have to get a pure bred to get a good dog. We found our dog in the paper she is a mutt and our second dog was given to us mutt also. They are both good dogs. She probably needs a medium size dog so she can squeeze and love it as much as possible. I let my dogs in the house but just cause you get a dog doesn't mean you have to let it in the house. She is so active she would keep the dog busy. With DeLane being 13 now I have been thinking how soon they grow up, he will be out of the house in no time. Life is to short to worry about dog poop. Just think of it as natural fertilizer.

Love ya'll

Anonymous said...

Cairns are also escape artists and will bolt. In fact, most terriers will. Start small. A gerbil or a hamster. Maybe even one of those little crabs they sell in the mall. You're going to be very overwhelmed with a small child and a new dog. Then, the only one that would suffer is the dog and your nerves. START SMALL.
P.S. I work for the Humane Society in KC so I hear this stuff all the time. Found your site using the tags on blogger.

Preston said...

Preston and DH have been asking for a dog for a long time and I can hardly stand the thought. I am NOT a dog person, and I refuse to clean up dog poop/pee in my houe. Hubby wants a inside dog to make matter worse. I swear one day im gonna wake up to a furry creature by the bed.

Anonymous said...

Just for the record.....

I had dogs for my children growing up, I had cocker spaniels, mutts, a golden retriever, and by far the mutts were the best. I had inside dogs, outside dogs, dogs that slept in the bathroom on the floor and dogs that slept in my bed. The reason I do not have a dog now is because I work all day and often go somewhere after work before coming home and I don't know of any dog that can cross its legs for 15 hours at a time.

I can sympathize about the dog hair but there are breeds that don't shed much. If you are allergic or are going to be picky about dog poop then you shouldn't get a dog and just let poor Sophie grow up dog-deprived. She will only require therapy for a few years once she leaves home so don't give it another thought.


Kritter Krit said...

Oh, Emily, you do have quite the way with words, don't you?

I am picky about dog poop. Mostly because I don't like kids tromping through it and then coming inside. The hair thing is the other problem. It would have to be an outside dog (...or I'd have to become an outside human).

The other thing is I really do think she should be old enough to care for a pet before she becomes a Pet Owner. Since it will be HER dog, she needs to be old enough to feed it, walk it, groom it...yada yada.

Until then, she can just hope for things. Like the rest of us. ;)

Lora Lee said...

Maybe you should get her a Gerbil then. Then you don't have to worry about tromping thru poop and she will be able to feed it and water it. She may need ur help a little and some reminding, but if she can clean up an ottoman and stuff it behind the chair, then surely she can fill a small bowl w/ food and keep the water bottle full. I was not an animal person growing up, like my sister could take em or leave em, but you have such a go getter on your hands.

Lora Lee said...

And you know if ya'll are trying for another baby. The fastest way to get one is to have some animal join your home. Next thing you know you have a new animal, even if its a gerbil, that you have to remember to feed and a new baby on your hands that will make Sophie forget about the Gerbil. You know how those laws of nature, irony and all that good stuff work. :)

Lauren said...

Hi - Just stumbled onto your site and thought I'd leave a comment (prepare yourself, it'll be long!).

Though I am a dog lover, and have been since I was little, my parents held off on the dog until I was almost 10, preferring to have me work my way up the responsibility ladder.

We had guinea pigs (one at a time) and I think that was a great way to start me off. I cuddled mine, dressed them up (in a mini tux I made....It was his "wedding day!" Way too much imagination), taught him how to swim, built cardboard mansions for him, let him run around on our screened porch, built mazes....Seriously, there is a lot you can do with a guinea pig, even when little. Plus, they need their cage cleaned (cedar chips, just dump and refill) about once a week so it teaches responsibility.

If you do the dog route, I'd also say to avoid terriers, herding dogs (Collies, Shepherds), and other working breeds (Huskies). Great Danes would be great, although maybe overwhelming if you're not a dog person. I'd say go for something like a cock-a-poo. With the poodle mix, they'll be shed less, be smaller and still intelligent. Also, as tempting as puppies are, go for an adult dog that is already housebroken and out of the chewing phase.

Good luck! Whatever kind of animal you get for her, she'll love it, I'm sure. Sorry for writing a novel and not even knowing you :)

Brett said...

You know, Kristy, I could always send Soph some more picture of Sugar if you thought it would help. But, honestly, I swear by Labs . . . they're just good dogs all around (if you can find a smaller one!) However, b/f you get one, you should read "Marley & Me"--great book, and a small look into what a dog can add (and takeaway) from a family!!

Scott said...

We're giving in soon.
The allergies excuse has worn thin since our girls visited their asthmatic cousin and their Yorkie-Poo.

So as soon as my wife sticks her face in a dog's fur and survives, we'll have the final go-ahead.

But our youngest is 7. We started with hamsters for 3 or 4 years.

Wendy said...

It's a big change getting a dog, especially if you aren't used to having them around, there's a whole lot to learn and alot of new work to do. I remember how big of a shock it was the first several months with Maddie, I think it was 4-6 months before I could honestly say that I was glad we got her. I had never had a dog in the house either, and took some time to get used to the new routine it imposed on our lives. If you decide to do this I would recommend finding a dog that has been fostered, they are usually housebroken and somewhat socialized, and the dog's foster owner will be able to help you determine if it has the right personality for you.
I wouldn't do this unless you want the dog too, it's just too much work and you really need to get some significant enjoyment out of it to make it worth all the changes in your household and routine. You really need to be willing to fall a little bit in love, not to the extent that you do with your kids, but some fraction of that, to make it possible to ignore all the negatives. I can't see myself not having a dog now, but it's not for everybody. You might try doing some reading about dog ownership to see if you could ever see yourself having a doglover's mindset. Meanwhile you could borrow some friends dogs on occasion, or offer to walk a neighbor's dog to give Sophie some facetime with animals. If might be all she really needs right now is some kritter facetime.

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