“Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!” from me.
“Mine. Mine. Mine!” from the littlest one.
“Can I? Can I? Can I?” from the oldest one.
“Can I have a dog? Can I have a dog? Can I have a dog?” from the middle one.
Every day my 4 year old asks me for his dog. You’d think he would have grown weary and cease his incessant begging by now. After all, it’s been years. But this is the same kid who wore his pajamas every day for 6 months. Persistence is what this kid’s made from. Or is it stubbornness?
Either way, he continues to ask. In a quiet voice, temporarily free from whine, he will ask me when he can go and pick up his “plain dog” named Murphy. It took several months for me to figure out that “plain” really means a yellow Labrador Retriever.
He already has a dog leash tucked in his top drawer beneath his super hero underwear and white sport socks, awaiting Murphy’s imminent arrival. Each birthday and Christmas he requests the matching red collar.
There are days when I feel like he is slowly wearing down my resolve and I find myself believing it when I say, maybe in a few more years.
I grew up with a dog.
A gentle giant of a yellow lab who preferred snoozes by the fireplace than fetch in a field and like an oversized pillow, I would rest my head on his warm side while reading a book or studying for my high school chemistry test. His demeanor was calm but his loyalty to our family was fierce. When I had our first son, Morgan would position his hulking body across the top of the stairs and much like Nana from Peter Pan, he would rise to all fours, calling attention when the little crawler was quickly making his way across the fur-covered rug.
But dogs, even lazy ones, are like children and require more than just love. The schedule in our home is jam-packed with school, activities, play dates and travel. In the few hours of morning solitude when I return emails and journal my thoughts, my plants slowly die. The once vibrant orchid resting on the mantle has turned brittle and brown since the third round of “terrible twos” began in earnest. The petals droop and sag to remind me of my neglect.
Guilt already weighs heavily on my shoulders. And a furry face with sad eyes eager to please would only compound things.
My friends who populate their home with children and dogs are quick to remind me of the joy a canine brings to the family. The unconditional love! A best friend! Every boy needs a dog!
As the boys slowly grow towards independence I admit, I am tempted to fulfill my middle son’s greatest wish but I can’t help but be selfish. I am so close to being diaper free and not being tethered to the house by nap schedules. The thought of rushing home to “Let the dog out!” “Walk the dog!” and “Pick up the dog poop!” exhausts me. For I know that this will be a passing infatuation for the boys and the responsibility of the dog will fall solely to me. Yet, another living being that depends on me.
However, let’s be honest. All of these arguments are in fact pretty weak and lackluster. There is only one reason why I will never have another dog.
It was Morgan’s turn to lay his head in my lap and my family’s turn to be his loyal servants when we held him as he took his last breath. When his cold pink nose no longer let out a hot breath onto my hand, my heart broke.
The sadness that washed over me after our faithful pup died was penetrating. For months I couldn’t walk past a dog park without my stomach clenching and tears springing to my eyes. I crossed the street to avoid passing a yellow lab whose floppy tongue and wagging tail would remind me of Morgan, crippling me to a stop.
Three years later, my brother and his wife rescued a yellow lab from the Toronto Humane Society, and when I stopped off to visit the newest addition to the family, I did so alone because I knew when I looked into her familiar face, I would be overcome by emotion.
Part of me wants for my children to experience this pure and unconditional love that has enriched my life but the other part of me is just not ready.