When my husband and I got married, there were a few items that we joked “were in the
.” These were the non-negotiables–the issues we had discussed before agreeing to spend our lives together. For me, it was keeping a kosher home and sending our (then non-existent) kids to a Jewish day school. For my husband, it was getting a dog.
Yes, I promised that one day we would get a dog. Even though I am scared of dogs. Terrified. Can’t stand when they lick me. Scream when they run towards me. Petrified when they jump on me. Yes, I replied to my beloved, for you, I will get a dog.
Though we wed more than 11 years ago, I have been able to successfully delay the puppy piece. First I argued, “Not while we’re in a city apartment.” So the minute we closed on our house seven years ago my husband asked, “Should we go straight to the rescue shelter?”
I said, “Not while we have young kids; it’s too much work.” That bought me a few more years.
But now my kids are 5 and 8. The youngest started full-time kindergarten in September. And my husband sees this as the perfect time for us to get a pet. He’s even tried to recruit the kids in this quest. The little one isn’t keen on it but everyday the big one begs and pleads for a puppy. We even have some names picked out.
So now, I weigh the pros and cons.
1. I don’t want my kids to be scared of dogs. From experience I know it’s terrible to go through life with a paralyzing fear of “man’s best friend.” Owning a dog would pretty much ensure that my boys don’t fear dogs the way I do.
2. The positive impacts of puppy love. A friend told me her daughter was having behavior issues but once they got a dog, that consistent and unconditional love mellowed the girl, made her less anxious, stressed, and angry, and just more happy in general. I am all for making my kids, not to mention my husband and myself, less stressed and more happy.
3. Teach kids responsibility. Unlike most of the things my children have acquired during their young lives, with a dog comes a huge amount of responsibility–more than the ant farm my son was given by a classmate when he turned 6. There is such potential for the kids to learn reliability, commitment, accountability, and love as they help take care of the dog day in and day out. (Note: key word is “potential.”
4. The company. As of now, my preferred pet is something not too big–let’s say no more than 16 lbs–yet somehow I also envision this petite pooch will protect me and the kids and will help fill the emptiness we sense during the several nights each month that my husband works an overnight shift.
1. I am scared of dogs. Yes, I think I mentioned this one already. I know I need to get over it but it hasn’t happened yet.
2. It’s a lot of work. Walking the dog. Feeding the dog. Training the dog. Not to mention picking up the dog’s poop–ugh! And despite what I wrote in “Pro #3,” let’s guess who will be doing all this work. The 5-year-old? The 8-year-old? The dad who works 12-hour shifts at the hospital? Yeah, right.
3. Goodbye babysitter. Well, not all babysitters. But definitely my mom who lives just 10 minutes away and helps us out A LOT. My mom has threatened that if we get a dog she will never, ever come over to watch the kids. I’m thinking she’s also not going to offer to dog-sit when we go on vacation. Luckily my in-laws are dog people.
4. It’s expensive. A quick online search tells me that owning a dog can cost anywhere from $1000 to $3000 per year, not including potentially huge medical expenses. Over a lifetime it can cost an owner up to $34,000. Wowser Bowser!
Of course, a decision like this can’t be judged on a hastily written list of pros and cons. There are so many variables that can’t easily be quantified. Like how owning a dog would impact my decision about whether or not to return to work after the two years I have stayed at home. Or, how it will feel for me to hear my sons giggling as the dog gives them kisses. Or how, given that my husband has kept up his end of our deal by keeping our home kosher and supporting our children’s Jewish education, I want to keep up my end as well. I want to be the wife that keeps her promises, not the wife that disappoints her husband and kills his dreams.
That said, I’ve been able to convince my husband that we should wait until our little one is a bit older and in 1st grade, a year from now. And I’m hoping that by then I’ll have the courage, the desire, and the motivation to finally say, “Yes, let’s go get our puppy!”
Any advice from the pet owners out there?