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We Are Never, Ever, Ever Gonna Get a Pet (er)

By Emily Milner

I find myself drawn to pictures of puppies lately. My friends get puppies and post pictures of them on social media. I show the pictures to my husband and tell him that we also need a dog, something small and furry and cute. I do this mostly to tease him, because he is firmly in camp We Are Not Getting a Dog, What Are You, Crazy? Which is where I have been most of my life, until the last few months where it seems like everyone and their dog happens to be getting a dog.

I did not grow up with dogs,* and I have never had a pet I took personal responsibility for except an ill-fated goldfish. One time I took an online survey called “which pet would be best for your family?” It was a pretty thorough survey, not like a Buzzfeed “which dog breed are you,” but really in depth. The answer to the survey as noted by some experts vets serving Seattle, WA was “Please do not get a pet.” In other words, you are only just barely taking care of yourselves, and for the love of PETA, don’t bring another living thing into your messy lives. People  can have a peek here for the best pet services.

The survey has a point. I struggle to clean up after myself and my kids (don’t, really just don’t, tell me that I need to train my children so that they can do it and it won’t be so much work. Because 1-I try that, and 2- even when they do their jobs there’s still a lot left over and I don’t keep up with it very well. I wrote a whole essay about it in Segullah’s latest anthology.). It would make no sense at all to bring another creature into my chaos.

Nevertheless, I keep looking at pictures of puppies, the fantasy of cuteness, the ideal that there will be this small warm adorable creature who will delight my children and be worth all of the work that know comes with having a pet, especially a baby one. I even went so far as to google “best dog breeds for people who have never had a dog and don’t know what they are doing.” The answer to that is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel or a Shih Tzu.

I showed adorable pictures of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Shih Tzus to my husband, the voice of reason, wisdom, and caution, and he said no. Just, no.

Sigh. He is right. Here is a list of reasons he is right:

Pets are expensive. Like, if I have to choose between paying to buy and take care of a pet and paying to maintain my book addiction, the books win. They just do. Also clothes and groceries and piano lessons win. New carpet wins. My oldest son’s mission wins.

Also cleaning up dog poo and maybe stepping in it. I absolutely hate that. So gross. I prefer to clean up only the bodily waste of mammals to whom I am genetically related.

Also my inability to properly train my own children is likely to have some carryover in the animal world.

Also my son has asthma, and I don’t want to do anything to make that worse, which includes bringing another non-human mammal into our home.

And really, this fixation on puppies is about me mourning the end of my small people, my babies. My youngest is six now—six!—and he’s not small anymore. He no longer allows me to kiss his squishy cheeks, which have lost their baby roundness. He’s going off to school all day long next year, and he talks up a storm, telling me long involved stories about his Lego creations. My oldest is submitting his mission papers and leaving soon. There is no longer anything small and cuddly and completely dependent on me, requiring a ridiculous amount of work, but reciprocating with unstinting and utter affection.

One night when my six-year-old was two, I tucked him in and he wouldn’t stop kissing me. He giggled at himself—he knew this was silly—but he couldn’t stop kissing Mommy. I have felt, through most of my time mothering, completely unworthy of that kind of pure love, and this deep sense of my own inadequacy has often prevented me from appreciating the affection when it came.

My sudden attraction to puppies is a maternal side of me that I actually haven’t recognized until just now. The deep, hands-on, in-the-trenches part of my mothering, the diapers and sleepless nights and potty training, is done. Mothering older children is its own kind of hard, but that bone-wearying early Mommy phase is finished.

I need a dog instead, since my toddlers are gone. And we are not getting a dog. Just, no. It is all I can handle to take care of people.

But dang, just look at that face. So cute. Sooooo cute.

*we did have one dog when I was growing up for a very brief time.

About Emily Milner

(Poetry Board) graduated from BYU in Comparative Literature, but it was long enough ago that most of what she learned has leaked out. She would like to mention other hobbies or interests, but to be honest she spends most of her free time reading (although she does enjoy attempting yoga). She used to blog at hearingvoices.wordpress.com. For now, though, Segullah is her only blogging home, and it's a good one.

4 thoughts on “We Are Never, Ever, Ever Gonna Get a Pet (er)”

  1. I grew up in a house with a lot of pets and always thought I'd be the same when I grew up. It never happened because we were moving around too much and my ex-husband has allergies. Then we finally got two cats about seven years ago–and I didn't really love it. There were some behavior issues with the cats, and it also turns out that one of my kids also has allergies. A year ago I gave away our cat (one had died, unfortunately), got some new furniture and carpet, and rejoiced at my freedom from pet ownership. Except now my kids are still sad and lobbying for a new cat, and they are really cute and cuddly….

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  2. Em, you are so funny! Also wise — not only because you know you shouldn't get a pet, but because you're tuned in to your maternal losses and the "soooo cute" reaction you're having to puppy pictures and the way those two things relate. I get it. I've had to choose between keeping my dog (Havanese — small, hypoallergenic, smart, kid-friendly, loyal — another breed to consider — just in case, you know) and living as a nomad. The nomad in me won out, but seriously, some days I really, really miss my adorable, adoring dog. I'll fling out one ray of hope for you, which requires looking forward, not backward: grandkids. Stay strong, sister.

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  3. I grew up without pets ( barring living for two years with a pair of parakeets in the house my sister had when we were teens because I think a boyfriend gave them to her). My parents wanted a house that was so clean that my friends and boyfriends regularly referred to our home as "a museum." My husband comes from a family where everyone has a dog. I caved after hearing all these promises: "I'll walk, feed, care for the dog." That, and my husband cried.

    We are on our second (and last) dog. I do 99% of the care. Yes, the unconditional love of a dog has been very positive for my kids when they have gone through very difficult ordeals from ages 3 through 13. But once our two children became busy in high school, they stopped cuddling with the dog, except maybe for 30 minutes total over the entire weekend. I have spent a lot of time dealing with pee, poop, and dog hair. The expense of food, treats, dog toys, meds, check ups, boarding, grooming, and replacing chewed up items adds up.

    Nevertheless, I sometimes get a glimpse of our dog's goofy, earnest, sweet personality, and my heart melts. I often wonder if I will get to "talk" to my dog after the Resurrection. (I'm closer to the second one than the first. Because Teenagers.)

    Don't tell my family. They would tease me too much about my constant refrain: "I didn't even want this dog; you all wanted this dog!" But after living with dogs for 15 years and counting, I may (after a decade or two of being both kid and dog free) end up adopting a little lap dog to keep me company during my sunset years.

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  4. I wasn't expecting this post to go where it did, but I like where it went. This is a tender time of mommahood.

    I sometimes wish I could do the dog thing, but I simply know I couldn't, can't, won't, for many of the reasons you have listed. We have allergies and stuff, but I like to sum it up with "I paid my poop dues." Your line about not wanting to do poop of those not genetically related? Yup. So much yup.

    I also am just too emotionally vulnerable. I feel sorry for Christmas trees that don't find a home, for crying out loud. I am prone to worry about living things; I can't spread that worry out too far or my family suffers. And so do I. The downside of being an empath, I guess.

    p.s. Thanks for being real. I can relate to a lot of things you write. I always have. <3

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