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 dog...you 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.