May 27, 2010

To Dog or Not to Dog, That IS the Question

Me on Maggie with Eli and Miriam

I realize I haven't blogged for awhile. My absence is entirely due to my hunt for the perfect dog for our family. I must state up front that I am not really an animal person. I love to look at my dad's horses out the window--the foals frisking, and the older horses grazing. I especially love watching them before a storm when they run back and forth along the fence line. Just beautiful. I also like to ride the horses now and again, usually around the corral with a child in front and a child in back. My favorite thing is watching my son learn to ride. He's five now, and Grandpa lets him ride by himself in the corral. A huge achievement.

When I was four, my dad let me barrel race in some of the local children's rodeos. My horse then was a retired thoroughbred racehorse, a stallion of not inconsiderable size. I adored him. I rode him by myself all the time. We even had the same red hair color. Kismet, I tell you.

You see, when I was younger, I was an animal person. I won first prize at the fair with my chicken for "Most Unusual Pet." It was a top-hat chicken that had feathers that stuck straight up and looked like a funny hat. I loved that chicken.

My other childhood pet was an old, old horse named Thunder. He was my best friend for three years. I adored him. He was the perfect pet because he never wanted to go anywhere, so it was easy to jump on his back (without reins or saddle--he was very old, I mean, well-trained) and chat with him for as long as I wanted, and then hop off when I was done. I also actually rode him sometimes. My dad would provide me with a stick to hit his rump to get him moving. Sometimes he was so excited to return he would trot a few steps. That was exciting.

In the meantime, I barrel raced using one of the other horses, and I played with the chickens, and I hugged the dog, and I searched the barn for new litters of kittens.

I had the perfect childhood.

So when my daughter says things like, "I've never had a real pet before," and my son begs every day to go to Grandpa's to see the horses, I feel a little guilty. Enter Phineas, the dog. You can read the entire story here. Phineas didn't even last 24 hours at our house. The problem now is that I'm a homeschool mom, with a wannabe writing career (hey, even wannabes have to write if they ever want to become something more than a wannabe), a husband in school resulting in my teaching a course for the local university next fall, and four children--none of whom are successfully potty-trained. And none of those are really good excuses for not getting my children a pet. I'm just no longer an animal lover. Or I'm an animal lover from afar. Or I just can't stand one more thing that poos anywhere near me or the thought of dividing my already limited time among my children and something so much less important to me.

Maybe I'm a wuss.

Maybe I'm destroying my children's childhoods because they'll never go through the ups and downs of loving an animal.

And maybe it doesn't even matter.

Any thoughts?


  1. My kids have never experienced a pet and I really haven't either, but my husband has. Unfortunately (or fortunately) we've been living in rental homes/units since we've been married, so having a dog hasn't been an option. BUT we both feel like having a pet is a great way to learn responsibility and love and care for something else. We actually have been talking about getting two pet rats for our kids. They are actually just as fun and trainable as dogs! Who knew?? :) Anyway, I can understand your anxiety about getting another dog after your horrible first experience. I haven't had much luck around dogs, either, but having one horrible experience shouldn't prevent you from trying it again. Two times the charm? I don't know...:)

  2. in my experience, having pets while living in your parent's house is a FAR different experience than having one in yours.

    We got a dog and a cat at the same time... three years later, we still have the cat (which I could do without) and no longer have the dog. To be fair, I feel like we got the wrong KIND of dog (lab, big mistake). If we had it to do over again, we MIGHT have adopted an adult, small dog that was easy going. That can make all of the difference.

    But I'm perfectly happy waiting until I have an empty nest before we get the next one.

    All kids love small and cuddly things... but I don't think any permanent life scars will come from denying them a pet... especially with a grandpa who has so many :)