My kids are hounding me for a dog

Aden's a dog's best friend

Aden’s a dog’s best friend

Our family was dog-sitting this week for Wilson’s brother’s dog, an adorable mutt named Ranger.  (When he was a puppy, he had black spots around his eyes that looked like the Lone Ranger’s mask.) We’ve taken care of Ranger before, but each time,  the pressure intensifies to get a dog of our own.

I like dogs and know that it would enrich my kids’ lives if they had a pooch, but I didn’t grow up with one. My mother dislikes and fears most animals and my father chose not to fight that battle. Wilson didn’t grow up with animals either so we’re clueless and intimidated by the idea of adding a dog to our family.

My middle son, 9-year-old Aden, is my most challenging child. He acts tough, but can be sensitive and moody.  But he loves animals. Every book he has taken out of the library since kindergarten has been about animals.  When we visit friends, he gravitates towards dogs more than other kids. He instinctively knows how to talk to them, pet them, love them.

I’ve resisted getting a dog because my youngest, 7-year-old Eli, was still having accidents until about a year ago. After 12 consistent years of changing diapers and throwing away stained Batman undies,  I wanted at least one poop-free year.

Eli giving Ranger some love

Eli giving Ranger some love

Many of our friends have gotten dogs in the last few years. I’ve seen their adorable, floppy puppies attracting the attention of excited kids and swooning adults and felt the pang of desire.

Our Fido-loving friends can’t imagine their lives without them and I’ve seen them treat their dogs with the same concern and adoration (sometimes more) that they have for their kids. It’s sweet.

It also scares the crap out of me.

I think about the long walks in the freezing cold, the chewed up furniture and toys, and the neediness of a puppy in its first six months.

I have three energetic boys who don’t listen to a word I say and a husband to whom I don’t pay nearly enough attention. I work part-time in the city and part-time at home and I have several volunteer and house obligations.  Do I really want yet another living creature depending on me?

The kids say they’ll help with the responsibilities and I believe they want to. But the reality is I’ll be the main caretaker of the dog. The only way I would get a dog would be if we had a trainer or obedience classes because we don’t know the first thing about food, schedules, or behavior. But that’s more time and energy.

Aden and Eli walked Ranger many times this week and played with him a lot. But when the novelty wears off, will I be nagging them to take the dog out like I do to clean their rooms?

I loved the infancy and baby stage of parenthood so taking care of a puppy and being needed in that way is appealing to me. But I know there will be plenty of times I won’t feel like standing on the sidewalk for the thousandth time in 20- degree weather waiting for it to take a leak…or coming home early from a party because it’s been alone in the house too long…or worrying about it when it’s sick.

Ranger is over a year old but still pooped in our front hall at least 6 times this week and peed inside twice. I’m sure part of it is different surroundings and missing his own family, but sometimes dogs just poop on the rug.

I’m not so psyched about that.

While I would love to rescue a dog, Eli has allergies so we need a non shedding pup. With the wide range of breeds out there, I’ll need to do ample research to  choose the right dog for our family.

It sounds like I’m hesitating as I voice my anxiety, but I know it’s not a matter of if, but when for us. When I see Aden cuddling on the couch with Ranger I know he needs a dog. He’s actually better behaved and more relaxed with a dog around.

He’s one of those kids who feels things deeply but can’t communicate his needs. Being around animals brings out his best self and perhaps makes him feel an unconditional love and understanding he may not feel from humans, even the ones who love him most.

How can I deny him something that would be such a positive influence?

I’m sure all you dog lovers will say just do it! Anyone want to share stories about the challenges? What breeds would you recommend? Please educate and encourage me in the comments.

10 responses to “My kids are hounding me for a dog

  1. Thanks for all the comments. I’m feeling as conflicted as before! Will keep you posted on our progression.

  2. Ok, a voice of reason…from you friend who happens to be a Veterinarian. DO NOT get a dog unless YOU want one, not your kids or your husband. This will end up as your 15 year responsibility! I love dogs and have a few, and my friends are happy with their dogs. But in the end this animal is a huge commitment.
    My advice is to try being a “foster family”. This way you can work with a rescue league of your choice, like one that takes in doodle-types, which are less allergenic. And then you have the dog and see how everyone handles it, and then the agency adopts it out, and there is no lifetime commitment. These are usually adult dogs that didn’t work for the previous owner. Just make sure that there was not a biting issue before you take one in with your energetic boys 🙂
    Good Luck!

  3. You’ve got to get a Tibetan Terrier. Allergy friendly! Blends easily into your life! Likes to be part of your pack! Another perk: you can get a girl dog and have a female BFF in your house! You know how awesome Barley is – take her for a day (or 2!) to try her out (and make sure Eli not allergic). Best part of dog ownershp: long walks in the reservation with happy kids and happy dog. As for pooping in the house, etc. … just put in the time with good training and strict rules for the first year of puppyhood and you will have a great dog for life!

  4. I just love that by being around 4 boys for so long, you are nonchalantly using the term “take a leak” in your columns! Outstanding. By the way, I found some Ranger poop in our bedroom this morning!

  5. Erica Schon Pollak

    Brooke, as the lab crazy mother of 3 dogs…..I can tell you that your kids will not help… first they will and then the fun will wear off !! So be prepared !! BUT, I must tell you a dog is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family. The joy a dog brings to your lives will be unmeasureable !! If you can fence in your yard and have a pet door, lots of frustration can be eliminated. Your dog will be happier too !! Growing up w/many cats and now dogs, I will never be without as long as I can walk. So, I say…go for it but get the house ready w/a fence and pet door first. Keep us posted on your pet progress. I am here if you need any advice. We have it down to a science in our house !! xo

  6. yes – dog lovers ( a clear majority in all houses) may not understand the fears of non-dog lovers/owners. We have had many of these convos here as well as when we dog sit for Papa Mikes dog- the kids are happier, calmer etc. I will say that the late pm walks, the care and feeding of another mouth and the racing back from activities to walk the dog makes us prolong the inevitable. Keep debating! No simple answers here.

  7. So, our new pup Slugger has NEVER pooped or peeped in the house. We got him when he was 41/2 months old. He was with his mom and dad and litter mates until then, and just learned that outside was the best place to go. Another very necessary item is a doggie door…he can come and “go” whenever he feels the urge, no need for walking or waiting. Training him is not too bad if you have a dog who wants to please. You can hire a trainer for your lessons, then work with the pup. It is alot of fun. Aden can do it. Crates makes the owner’s life managable…like a time out for the pup, and are necessary for sleeping and safety when you leave your home.Yes, pups can chew and destroy shoes, magazines, furniture, underwear, pillows, and anything that looks like it tastes good. But, the love they give is more than worth a pair of shoes. I say,”Arf” and do it,

  8. Murphy dogs are the best!!!

  9. A dog!!! Brooke, I think the solution to a lot of the anxiety re: walking a dog is a fenced in yard w a dog door. It is not terribly expensive to do, and makes having a dog completely manageable. (It was the first thing we did when we moved here and CHANGED our life!!) Ultimately – after training – the dog is basically self sufficient. (Aside from food of course). If the dog can let himself in and out, it becomes a pleasure to walk him when you can! Also – Oscar is a mutt and adopted, and hypoallergenic. Lots of shelters know which dogs will not cause allergic reactions. You just have to ask:) Oscar turns 12 tomorrow … He’s Evan’s very best friend. My vote is a big fat woof!

  10. Dog will steal your heart and you’ll never get it back. And Aden really does need one. You’ll have no regrets. I vote Wheaten Terrier or non-shedding rescue dog (Pearl is from Wheaten Rescue of Socal- I’m sure they have a NJ chapter!)