The Dog Compromise. For Now

By | May 5, 2013

20130430_115156I had changed the beds just a few days ago. I have to do it often than I used to since my youngest is prone to allergies. But like many things we start doing because they make our loved ones’ lives easier, you get used to it.

Today, though writing abounded, I had to do it all over again. Plus more specific cleaning. The reason is … well, black with brown paws, curious, and with an exaggerated propensity for bed jumping. A cross between a black Lab and a Maremma, she’s smart and unreasonably cute.

Our home is her occasional daily abode. We’re helping one of our friends. The dog comes from a litter of many, equally cute. Four weeks ago I drove my friend to see the puppies and I promised myself that no matter how cute, there will be no thoughts of getting one of our own. We have, after all, two guinea pigs and two jumping and unexpectedly interacting Beta fish.

But I am not immune to animal charms. Ever since I could walk by myself to school and around my neighborhood, I was an animal collector. Some whole, some hurt, all lovable. Baby birds fallen from their nests, stray dogs and baby cats, even a hedgehog, a rabbit and a couple of mice.

I got to see some birds grow strong and take off flying. Some of the stray dogs left a couple of days after being taken home. The cats stayed.
I loved my cats but wanted a dog too. I was eight or so. My parents were not in a hurry to get me one.

Six years later I bought my first dog – a rescued one from an abusive home – with a whole lotta money from my saved stash. My parents only found out about it afterwards. They shook their heads, but did not scold, because she was a gentle spirit and though I had been tricked into overpaying, they thought I did well to rescue her. Love is often impractical.

I took great care of her and we wandered many hills together during my high school years. She became a sweet companion for my parents when I left for university.

Fast forward to that Sunday four weeks ago. It was the beginning of a long decision-making process about getting a puppy. The boys were charmed by tiny paws, wet noses and cute little squeaks. So was I.

“Can we? Please?” They would take breaks to catch their breath and start again. We almost said “Why not?” because our hearts were truly left in that basket of furry beings.

We considered all sides. It made sense in many ways, less so in others.
Simplicity is what I have been longing for for a long time. You could ask how can that be when children are involved. It can, but it’s not a given.

We learn together about what we really need and learn that having fewer things to occupy our space and time means more time spent together and outdoors. It simplifies cleaning, which could become a Sisyphean task when many objects dance around the house with no defined purpose.

But the dog. There are a lot of good arguments for having a dog. Boys bond with dogs in a way that’s hard to argue against. We are outside a lot so it would make sense to get a dog.

Yet puppies grow. The kind we looked at especially. We have a car that contains us four and necessary camping gear, but with very little room to spare. Actually no room to spare.

Our house is small and delightfully so. A big dog could feel restrained at times.
Plus the responsibilities. I loved taking care of animals and still, I was often overwhelmed with being the sole caretaker of my dog (I had to keep my promise to do so.)

The boys are still young and green at that. Guinea pigs and fish are often my job though they vowed to make it theirs. We’re working on it but I expect it’ll be a while.

For now, for the sake of simplicity and yet still show them the other sides of having a dog, aside from being drenched in cuteness on any given day, we will help our friend take care of hers. And wipe the occasional puddles, as well as save the shoes. Socks too.

The puppy is adorable, no doubt about it, but here’s today’s tally: two puddles on two beds, many others around the house, two chewed plants and poop behind the sofa.

I had to attend to some deadlines you see, hence my inability to observe her every move. Be it so, I relish the chance to see her grow, help my friend, and have the boys understand that a dog is no toy.

Simplicity and dogs have a good chance to work in the near future. Less stuff to chew on, more time for us to spend with it outside, and having the boys a tad older and more responsible. One can hope.

(Published as a column in the Kamloops Daily News, Saturday edition, on May  4, 2013)

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