Wednesday, March 26, 2014

To Dog or Not to Dog

It's a real dilemma for us...whether or not to bring a dog into our family.

I've had three dogs in my life, all in adulthood.  Benson (black lab cross) was the first, when I was nineteen or twenty; then came Buddy (white American Eskimo mix), soon after Geoff and I married; and, several years later, while we still had Buddy, Bear (some kind of adorable mix) came into our lives.  All three were no-name brand dogs; one from an animal shelter, and the other two strays.  My cats all came from shelters, too.

I loved them all.  But man, dogs are a lot of work and a real investment of time and money.  Neither Geoff nor I particularly want a dog, because we know the work involved in having a pet, and the long term commitment.  Geoff, in particular, is reluctant - it was him who mostly cleaned the cat litter from our last cat, as well as the vomit that she projected in the last months of her seventeen+ years with us.

There are lots of reasons not to consider a dog.  I've got a list of them.

But here's the rub.  I think our kids could really benefit from having a dog.  All three, particularly our boys, really really want a dog, and have been resolute in this for about 1.5 years.  They love dogs, particularly small dogs.

And Seth - well, that boy is just desperate for a little canine friend...and we're not just talking about Finn, his stuffie.

It was fall, about 18 months ago, when I first saw Seth interact with a small animal - in that case, a cat that had wandered up our driveway while we were outside. Until that day, Seth had been quite fearful of dogs and cats (a remnant, no doubt, of his life in Ethiopia, where dogs and cats run wild and are truly to be feared).  But this friendly little peach tabby somehow drew Seth's attention and he asked me to show him how to pet the cat.  I taught him a few noises that might attract the cat, showed him how to crouch low to be less intimidating, demonstrated how to hold out a hand for the cat to sniff him, and modelled for him how to stroke her and scratch behind her ears and under her chin.  It was a whole new experience for him.

And didn't that cat just roll over on her back for Seth to give her a belly scratch!  Seth began to talk to the cat and stroke her and make instinctively soothing noises, and I stood back watching him, with my mouth open.  It was one of the first, and certainly the most powerful occasion when I saw in Seth the boy we knew was in there - the soft, gentle-hearted, protective and tender little boy who simply melted in the face of a furry little friend.  I could hardly believe what I was seeing.  We'd had so much to deal with from Seth in his first eighteen months in our family and we kept believing that he was this awesome boy who just needed time to adapt and emerge.  That afternoon was the beginning of the first of several big transformations we saw in our boy.

Seth's a kid who needs a dog.  Truly.  I was one of those kids as well, but never had one while I was a child.  I know what it's like to need, deep down, a dog, and the absence of that was a heartache for me throughout my childhood.  I know my parents had valid reasons and I'm not trying to dump on them here, but it was the wrong decision for me.  Some kids need a dog.  My mother used to always promise me that when I was an adult I could do what I wanted to - but I think she's forgotten that commitment because whenever I mention the possibility of a dog now, her faces screws up and she says, in despair, "Oh, Ruth, you don't want to do that...please, no don't want that in your life.  No dog."  etc etc

The thing is, just maybe I do want one again.  Not so much for myself, but for those kids of ours.  It's been eight years since we've had a dog in the house, and 2.5 since we've had a cat in the house.  It just might be time again.

And so Geoff and I have reluctantly put the issue on the table - privately, without the kids catching wind of the conversation.  Maybe, just maybe, we're approaching the right time. The kids are doing well; they're a little older; we're past high trauma mode; etc etc.

Geoff and I are not believers that our kids should demonstrate responsibility before getting a pet.  That's an impossible ask of kids, in our opinion.  They're kids, not adults, and we wouldn't expect them to promise responsibility, or to be responsible for a pet, because that's a requirement doomed to fail.  For sure we could and would ask them to help, but the responsibility would be ours.  So it's a big swallow for us.

In the event that we decide to bring a dog into our family, it would be a different sort than we've had in the past.  For sure it would be a small dog (8-12 pounds), and it would absolutely and positively and resolutely be one that doesn't shed.  And this time 'round, for the first time, I don't think I'd go the animal shelter/stray route - I think I'd want to choose a specific kind of dog.  In fact, the breed that is uppermost in my head right now is a Havanese (preferably chocolate coloured).  They're small, shed-less, aren't too yappy, are extremely good with kids, don't eat (or poop) large quantities, are cheerful and loyal, and don't have a lot of health issues associated with them.  In fact, there aren't a lot of downsides to this breed.  Here's a picture of a few chocolate Havanese, in case that's a new breed for you.

Anyway, the discussion is at a beginning point and I don't know, at this point, what the outcome will be.

But I'm starting to lean in a particular direction.


  1. Oh, Ruth, so funny! We've gone back down the doggie trail too! We had King Charles Cavalier Spaniels earlier in our lives, and while we loved them dearly, we said never again to high shed, high maintenance. When we finally said yes to having a dog again, my husband Caleb did alot of research, and we nearly bought a Havanese!! But in the end, the thought of all the matting (the bane of our existence with our beloved Cavaliers) changed our minds. Just looking at those coats...and we thought we'd spend alot of time grooming the dog. And that's not us, if we're brutally honest. We ended up with Schnoodles - Schnauzer-Poodles. Low-shed, smart, loving, sassy. :) Yes, you read the plural. We bought 2. Not at the same time (we're not complete morons) - we waited a few months, but we ended up with 2. They're toy breeds. 6-10 pounds. Caleb researched grooming on YouTube & does it himself, saving us huge dollars.

    Lucy - aka Mrs Bossypants, and Frankie - Mr Eyebrows. Love them to death. They're our therapy dogs. When everything seems wrong, a cuddle or hug from our poochies gets us through. And I'm talking the adults here. :)

    1. LOVE the names!!! And yes, when it comes to my Seth, I totally see a dog as being something akin to a therapy dog...maybe not overtly, but he's just a different kid around animals.

      Funny, too, that Schnoodles are high up on our list, too, for all of the reasons you mentioned. And I can see us eventually having two dogs (assuming they're little) because two isn't really all that much more work than one.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment,'ll surely hear about our decision!


  2. I'm totally biased toward dogs. I love the non-judgmental companionship they offer, the role of confidante who always "understands" (and never gossips). I actually do take some comfort in having them home with me on the rare occasion that I am alone for the evening. (An on-site home insurance assessment done at our fist place actually noted the presence of a dog on the premises as a positive). I find joy in my pets when I am at my worst, and they actually help me remain/become calm when I am struggling to stay regulated, partly because I don't want to cause them stress, and because they provide an alternative focus in the heat of the moment.

    I lean pretty heavily toward rescue (and many rescues do great fostering and assessment of temperament, etc.), but I do understand your reasons for considering otherwise. I get the shedding thing, although know I would be AWFUL and keeping up with grooming requirements of non-shedding breeds. Although large, our retired racing greyhound was the gentlest, quietest, least obtrusive dog I've lived with, and he won the heart of many a professed anti-dog person. Amazing. Pros and cons to all the options, with lots of room for personal preference!

    My boys did not have a lot of dog exposure, and don't really seek out our dogs (large hounds, who occasionally jump, and one that slobbers a bit). However, I love how our basset has taken on a bit of a support role during K's rages - she comes and sits near him, encouraging him to pet her, and it always works.

    We take a pretty low-maintenance approach to dog ownership - there is a big yard for their main exercise, with occasional hikes and walks, and lots of cuddle time when we relax. I enjoyed doing a course or two of basic training with our current dogs, but we didn't with others. The main things (as you would know from previous dog experience) tend to be limitations on how long you can be away from home (which I don't mind, because it puts a healthy boundary on how long I am out as well), and vacation (we have been fortunate to have family who can house-sit for us, but I if/when that is not an option, I do wonder what we will do...we'll figure it out, though). Ultimately the investment we make in our dogs definitely offers more than its fair share in return!

    No pressure, though ;) - it definitely needs to be a desired commitment, and I wish you well in making your decision.

    1. If ever I knew someone would comment on this post, Joy, it was you!! I know of your love of dogs - it shines through so much of what you write!

      It really IS a big decision...and although I'm hugely supportive of shelters, etc, I've been there done that, a lot of times already over the years. The smallest dog I owned was something like a Havanese and I learned a little about grooming and that I didn't want to do a whole lot of we just kept him pretty well trimmed and had zero problems...he was pretty low maintenance.

      I used to dream of doing a greyhound rescue - I researched them a while back and did a little investigating and I think they're amazing animals! The shedding and size factors are the only drawbacks from my perspectives - I think our kids need a small dog. All three of my kids are quite daunted by larger breeds.

      We, too, have a decent size of a backyard and, because we had a dog in the past, we also separated out an area beside our house that made a natural dog run...we'd just have to put the door back on it. But that worked out well, so that on the coldest -35 days of winter we didn't have to worry about taking her for a walk....just let her out into the run for five minutes.

      Anyway, I have a feeling we're going to get there. In my heart I'm kinda already there...but hubbie's not quite as far along the path as I am! :)

      Thanks, Joy. Someday I hope to meet your crew...human, feline and canine.