For three long years, three out of four of our children asked us every day for a dog. The conversations usually went something like this:
“Can we get a dog?” No. “Why not?” Because I do not like dogs.
“Can we get a dog?” No. “Why not?” Because I really do not like dogs.
“Can we get a dog?” No. “Why not?” Because we already have four children.
“Can we get a dog?” No. “Why not?” Because you have two working parents and we are exhausted.
“Can we get a dog?” No. “Why not?” Because I said so.
Meanwhile, my friend Elisa, a dog expert, kept telling me that we should get a dog, too. Dogs are good for children, she’d tell me, and they’re therapeutic, too.
Three of the kids — who are now 19, 15, and 12 — promised to walk the dog, feed the dog, and clean up after the dog. They seemed sincere, and the idea of getting a dog to give children responsibility was mildly appealing. However, one of our daughters — who is also 19 — was adamantly opposed. She was very clear she would have nothing to do with it: no walking, no poop scooping, nothing. But the other three promised to do everything, knowing that she was opting out.
And so, one random Sunday, as all good parents do, we went back on our word, put zero thought into the process and bought a puppy at a pet store. Please do not judge us about the dog not being a rescue dog. We did not fly her in from an international country, nor did we drive eight hours to a specialty breeder. We had no plan and we had no idea what we were getting into — sort of like what happened when we had kids, come to think of it!
Our criteria were simple: We chose the cutest dog in the store. After we got said dog, we realized we had no clue what dog ownership entailed. With the dog on our lap, no leash, no collar, peeing in the car — the dog, not us — and no crate to put her in, we drove to Petco with “sucker” written all over us. Several hundred dollars later, we were ready.
Somehow, our child with zero responsibility for the dog got naming rights, and we settled on the name Yogi (as in one who does Yoga — not Berra or the bear). It was a compromise; her other choice was Lulu, which I had vetoed as the ultimate cliché. Our son wanted to name her Schwarber, as in the Cubs player. My husband wanted to name her Xanax or Extra Time. He felt that she would fit into the family perfectly.
We brought Yogi home and our refusnik daughter ensured that every room in the house was properly doused in calming essential oils (except her room, which was to remain Yogi-free). She was very clear that she didn’t dislike Yogi; she just hated having a dog in our house. It’s a subtle distinction, but an important one.
For us, it was like having a newborn all over again. Waking up in the middle of the night to take her to the bathroom outside, early morning barking and walks, eating all of our shoes and scratching furniture (to be fair, only one of our kids did that). We literally had no idea what we were doing. We were too cheap to spend money on a trainer; after all, we trained four kids without help!
Instead, we spent money at the vet — every visit cost $400. Yogi was diagnosed with intestinal issues, anxiety, allergies, and she recently had a root canal. Somehow, she seems to have inherited our family’s genes.
As for me, the dog hater? At first, I barely paid attention to her. My husband was caregiver number one, our babysitter was caregiver number two, three kids combined were caregiver number three, and I was caregiver number four. And our other daughter completely ignored her. For months. Pretended she did not exist. And our house continued to smell like dog, lavender, and essential oils.
As for Yogi, when we first brought her into our house she was petrified. She hid under the sofa and trembled a lot. But, slowly, she started to feel comfortable, and her personality began to emerge.
Then something incredible happened: She became the sweetest, most fun, and most lovable dog. She is the dog that neighborhood kids come to visit in order to get over their fear of dogs. As my husband loves to say, if someone comes to rob our house, she will bark at them — and then lick their feet. She is basically 10 pounds of white mush.
The emotional benefits of having a dog have been wonderful. Yogi waits for each of us by the door and welcomes us as we arrive home, tongue out with excitement. Each child comes home from whatever they experienced at school knowing that an adorable, non-judgemental playmate will greet them — her only expectation is a tummy rub. She is like cookies and milk come to life.
The dog offers an escape from a world that at times can be cruel, including daily social exclusion, rejections, academic pressures, and feelings of loneliness. Yogi, by contrast, doesn’t leave anyone out. Yogi doesn’t ignore texts. Yogi doesn’t post on Instagram to let you know she excluded you. (But she does post on Instagram!! Follow her at yogi.fox). Yogi simply offers love, comfort, and stability — and, in turn, she brings about calmness, peace, and affection in my kids. The emotional support she provides is so simple and pure; it’s priceless.
These days, our 19-year-old daughter — the one who ignored her for an entire year — now Facetimes her every day from Israel, where she is studying for the year. And, perhaps this is no surprise, the dog has imprinted herself on me — the ultimate dog rejecter — too. My friends still crack up that I have a dog — a dog that follows me everywhere.
Yes, Yogi has won my heart. However, please do not mistake me for a dog lover. I love my dog. But since everyone on earth seems to have a dog these days, I’d want to warn you that while I definitely enjoy my dog, I only tolerate yours!