There’s a hole in my heart where my dog used to be. I’ve had a few special doggies in my lifetime, but Ella Mae was different. We got her as a two-month-old puppy from a shelter in Arizona, and she spent more than a decade of our lives with us. She crossed the rainbow bridge when she was 13 years old, two weeks before my first son was born—that was a little more than two years ago, and I still think of her every day.
That’s what dogs do to us. They give us immeasurable joy, snuggles, wet kisses and unconditional love; and then, inevitably, they are gone too soon. I’ve always been a dog person, and I suspect my kids will be dog people too…which begs the question…when should we get a dog?
In my family, it seems the query is hurled toward us as obnoxiously often as some couples face the question about having children (or additional children). “When are you getting a dog?” “These boys really need a dog, don’t they?” “Your son loves puppies! You have to get him one!” Yes, my son loves puppies, but he’s two. He loves trucks and whales and dinosaurs too, but nobody is asking when I’m going to get him any of those.
Sarcasm aside, it really is a decision I think about often. Having a dog, taking care of a dog, loving a dog, being loved by a dog—these are all things I want my boys to experience. But they are both very young, and right now, we are doing well to get everyone to the end of the day in a healthy, fed, clean and tired state. As much as I want a dog, I just can’t fathom adding another being to this household. More potty training, midnight whining, walks, playtime, vet visits, etc.—it all adds up to a lot of time to properly care for a dog and give it the attention it deserves.
So, I just don’t think we are ready. It hurts my heart a little to have to wait a few more years, but it will be joyful to watch my boys roll around with a puppy whether we do it now or later. And to those of you who have two, three, four, five kids, along with a dog, a cat and an iguana…mad props.
One thing I am worried about though is getting a little too accustomed to some of the positives of not having a dog after having one for so long. We never have to worry about scheduling a dog-sitter; our floors aren’t constantly covered with dog hair; there’s no poop to pick up in the backyard; and the vet bills, that usually grow exponentially toward the end of a dog’s life, aren’t looming anywhere in the near future. My husband and I have both admitted these upsides to ourselves during our “to dog or not to dog” discussions. But we still agree that when the time is right, the puppy breath, wagging tail and unshakable loyalty will be worth it.
Until then, we will continue to tell our older son stories about Ella Mae, his “furry sister” who loved him before he was even born. Maybe, someday, both of our boys will be lucky enough to have a four-legged friend like her.