I’ve always defined myself as a dog person.
For most of my life, I’ve had a dog.
When a friend asked me, more than 15 years ago, what I’d do if I found myself at age 40 unmarried and childless, I sort of shrugged and said, “Get a dog?”
And yet here I am, getting ever-closer to 40 – married, divorced, and remarried, with two daughters and a stepson … but no dog.
The kids want a dog. My husband is starting to make murmurs about maybe wanting a dog. But me? I don’t want a dog.
Partially, this is because I don’t want another thing to take care of. Oh, the kids swear that they will walk a dog and they will feed a dog, but we all know how that story ends. And my kids already wake me up when they have to pee at 2 a.m.; I don’t need another creature doing the same. Partially, this is because dogs are expensive, and as noted, we already have three kids who account for most of our money.
But mainly, if I’m being completely honest, it’s because I’m scared.
Before Ruby was born, I had a dog-baby, Loki, and losing him in the divorce was heartbreaking. When he died 18 months ago, I cried all day, even though he was damn near 14 and had lived a charmed life.
Loving anything is scary. I chose to get married again even after the devastation of a divorce. I chose to have kids even though there is a possibility (horrifying, nauseating, unfathomable) that they could die before me. I chose to buy a house that I fell in love with at first sight (breakfast nook! huge bathtub! built-in bookshelves!) even though it will absolutely flood if we ever have another bad hurricane.
And yet with a dog, you know you’re only going to get about a decade – if you’re lucky. How do you make your heart ready to take that kind of a risk?
Oh, I know it’s worth it on some level. It’s worth the pain of loss, and it’s worth the scratched-up floors, and it’s worth finding hair in your food, and it’s worth the cost of dog food, and it’s worth the loss of sleep. I’m sure I would say all of that as soon as I saw a sweet puppy licking Georgia’s face or snuggling Ruby after a hard day of middle school or curling up at Elliot’s feet while he did his homework.
I know the pros, believe me. But I also know the cons.
I’ve cleaned up a lot of dog poop and stepped barefoot into dog puke more times than I can count. I could’ve made another entire 100-pound dog out of all of the hair I’ve swept/vacuumed up. I once came home to find that Loki had picked up a full bag of flour from the floor of my kitchen pantry, carefully carried it into the living room, and then scattered the entire bag all over the entire room – I was finding flour in crevices and corners even months later after cleaning for hours the day it happened. Most of all, I know the fear of seeing something wrong with your beloved pet when it can’t talk to tell you what’s wrong.
I’m not sure I can do all of that again. And yet, as much as I say I don’t want a dog, I still feel a weird emptiness not having one.
After all, I’ve always defined myself as a dog person.
Go on. Talk me into it in the comments below.