Monday, June 14, 2010

The Myth of the Family Dog (5.16.10)

Our family has certain myths that are told and retold out of tradition and evasion - the Tooth Fairy, "Dinner Will Be Ready In Five Minutes", Santa Claus, and recently added to the list, the Family Pet.

I'm ambivalent about the custom of catering to my children's sense of wonder by creating magical creatures who enter the home while everyone sleeps. But I have no qualms about perpetuating the illusion that our family will someday harbor a slobbery hairball who needs assistance cleaning up his leavings.
"When are we going to get a dog?" ask my girls once again and I give my usual reply.

"When you are both in school and you've learned to take care of yourselves and your rooms and your clothes and toys, then we can talk about taking care of an animal."

As ironclad as my logic may be, they're never satisfied with that answer. Their tender sighing and begging continue. "Oh, please! Please! PLEASE!" So just to mollify and distract them (and to turn off the whining), I'll break out the myth. I'll talk a little about the kind of hypothetical dog we might get, emphasis on might, when they have shown enough responsibility to raise one.
"What kind of dog would you like, Mia?"

"I like the teacup Chihuahuas cause they are tiny enough..." (her voice goes up half an octave) " fit in your hand!"
Her little sister adds, "And I like dogs like Ozzie cause they don't shed!"

Ozzie, our neighbors' dog, is a cinnamon version of the Obama's Portuguese Water Dog Bo, nearly hypoallergenic and cute as all get out. Nora's comment makes me think some of my warnings about dog hair have gotten through. Maybe it was the threat of dog hair on the floor eliminating our three-second rule ("That M&M is still good! It's still good!") that convinced her we need a non-shedder.

I know the girls aren't ready. I know I'm not ready. I don't want a dog right now. I don't want the mess and the hair and the cleaning up after one more little creature's poop. My five-year-old is just now getting over a bout of self-induced constipation that nearly drove me off the deep end.

I also know the girls' pet lust is not going anywhere - it flares again every time we play in the front yard and a neighbor parades his canine cutie down the sidewalk.

"Excuse me! Excuse me! Can I pet your dog?" asks Nora of every single one.

I keep hoping giving the girls a chance to talk about our dream dog will satisfy them enough to let go of the actuality of a real live animal.

But when I saw the two gorgeous harlequin Great Danes owned by the Kathy Bates character on The Office, I caught a little dog fever of my own. My old co-worker Denny told me when he took his Great Dane out in the yard to play, the dog would tolerate a few minutes, then go the back door and beg to be let inside. (Yeah! I love lazy!) Denny also said Great Danes don't live long. (Losing our pet would be very sad, of course... but short-term responsibility is another benefit! I'll worry about how to handle "the circle of life" lesson for my girls later.) So I went online and checked out a Great Dane rescue site. Seems like they are pretty high-maintenance. High fence and dog-proofing the house for their long tails required.

Sounds like I'll be telling myself my own mother myth... "Now, Cindy, when you can pick up the girls at school on time and get the breakfast dishes washed before dinner and find some empty space on your desk, then, just maybe then, we can think about getting a dog."

Original post to Chicago Moms Blog. Cindy Fey blogs at We All Fall Down and tweets @cindyfey. Photo from Laertes at Creative Commons.

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