“Please, Mom. I promise that I’ll feed the dog, walk the dog, bath the dog. Please!”
For the first ten years of my marriage, I stood firm in my “No Dogs Allowed” policy, knowing that the lion’s share of the work would go to me. My husband actually cried, explaining that if he knew that I never wanted a dog, he would have “serious reservations” about marrying me.
I knew that he came from a family that loved dogs, but really?
Then I had a seven-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter dogpiling me for a pet.
We adopted Pascha, a Golden Retriever-Chow mix that a co-worker was trying to place. The dog primarily lived in the walk out basement and the fenced back yard (a half acre). I didn’t really deal with her much.
But four years later she died from a urinary tract infection that crawled up to her kidneys. I felt complicit in her demise because I rarely did more than throw food at her. I didn’t really want another dog. However, my daughter, who was ten at the time, grieved mightily. Combining that with my guilt over neglecting Pascha, and I relented.
“But this is our last dog!” I insisted.
So now we have Bolt, who was a rescued from a young man who grossly neglected him. We think he’s an Indian Spitz.
He came to us at about fifteen months’ old. He had fleas and worms. He was underweight. He hadn’t been spayed. He wasn’t house trained. He was not socialized to be around people since his first owner (a recent high school graduate who had his own studio apartment) left Bolt alone for hours at a time. The first owner named this dog Chaos, and that about summed things up.
Predictably, I’m the one who does about 90% of the caregiving. I buy the food and treats, dispense the food and treats, buy the dog toys, pick up dog toys, take the dog to the vet, administer flea and worm medicine, bath the dog, brush the dog, arrange for kenneling when we travel, clean up dog fluids off the carpet (pee, poop, vomit), and clean up half-eaten rabbits that the dog drags into the house.
I am not amused.
I’ve tried chore lists, nagging, yelling, gentle humor, and going on strike. Nothing compels the other family members to care for the dog or clean up after him.
I admit that at times I’ve fantasized about leaving the front door open.
But after six years with Bolt, I’ve accepted him as a member of the family. Sometimes I actually enjoy his company, given that I work from home. And he worships me as giver of food, especially when I give him meat. At times I wonder if we will have relationships with our dogs in the afterlife. And will dogs be able to talk then? If so, I am hoping to ask Bolt to forgive me for the first few years that he joined our family. But my experience as a pet caregiver leads me to believe that he will be very forgiving.