Years before my husband and I had kids, we had a dog. A wonderful sweet yellow Lab that we brought home on August 3, 2002. Her name was Ashley, but quickly became known -- simply and affectionately -- as Dog. Dog joined us for many adventures before the kids came along, and although she was getting on in years when our boys became ambulatory, tail-pulling toddlers, she was always gentle and patient with them.
We tearfully said goodbye to Dog in June of 2011, and I figured that while we'd never truly get over the heartbreak of losing her, it wouldn't be long before we welcomed another canine member of the household. But it's been almost two years, and every time I think about getting another dog, I get hung up on one thing.
Well, and the responsibility. What if our next dog isn't as good-natured and well-behaved as Dog was? What if she/he has behavior issues? What will we do with him/her when we leave town? What if New Dog decides our cat would make a delicious long-haired snack?
But I've got to be honest, it's mostly the mess that gives me pause. I love that our backyard is refreshingly feces-free, and that I don't have to inspect the kids' shoes when they run indoors. I live in Oregon, where a person must be resigned to a muddy dog several months out of the year, and I don't miss wiping down a rainy, dirt-coated dog several times a day. Ditto on the non-nostalgia for scrubbing the carpet after a dog experiences a bout of explosive gastrointestinal distress.
I'd likely be up for dealing with all of those things if I wasn't at near-capacity with kid-related messes. I'm already cleaning up after people all day long, from the sticky pools of cereal milk in the morning to the final toothpaste-on-the-mirror smear at night. I have moments of feeling precariously close to curling up in the corner and weeping when faced with yet another Sisyphean housecleaning task -- the laundry pile is threatening to become sentient again? -- and I suspect adding another animal who increases my overall workload might just be the tipping point that spirals me straight into Britney Spears levels of crazy. And not the relatively normal, if desperately in need of a good bra Current Britney, either ... I'm talking about the shaved-head, umbrella-whacking version.
The thing is, I still feel guilty about how our sweet dog plummeted down the priority list after kids came along. We gave her a wonderful home until the very end, I'm sure of that -- but she didn't receive the same level of attention she did before we became parents. I'm not sure I think bringing a dog into a loud, chaotic, already well-populated household is the right thing to do, either for the dog in question or for me.
Maybe when the kids are a little older, is what I tell myself. But it's hard not to look back on all those wonderful years we had with Dog and not feel tempted to try and find another furry companion. Sure, she might have been a little messy, but oh, it was worth it. She was a good, good dog.
Where are you at with kids and dogs? The more, the merrier? Or are you happier having fewer creatures to take care of?
Images via Linda Sharps