Unmet Needs

July 113We are considering getting a dog.  Shoot me now?

It was not long ago (last week, actually) that I thought that I just could not face the unmet needs of another living creature.  Then my three little living creatures went away without me for a while, and the space that opened in my day and in my mind began to welcome the idea of a dog.

(I would much, much rather have a cat.  I like their independence, their aloofness.  I like that they don’t need picking up after.  But we have allergies in this house that will not permit feline company.)

For so long I felt swamped by the needs of my children, but I have begun to look up and look about me.  I can do more.  I can take on more.  I don’t feel in constant need of rescue, and, in fact, I feel perfectly able to help others.  A tip of balance has taken place, putting me up above the morass of maternal obligation, giving me a wider view.  I could welcome a dog.  I could do it.

And then a little voice inside me says, “It’s a trap!  The kids are nearly all at school full time.  This is your time.  Do not take on the burden of another young thing.”

When does the balance tip between feeling burdened by the dependence of a loved one and so enriched by it that you forget the obligation?

We are close, very close, but it will not happen soon.  My eldest son, 12, just returned from a winter camping and dog sledding trip and is all enamoured of dogs.  He came upstairs the other night, after dinner and hockey practice and showering and doing homework, with a speech ready to persuade us of his ability to take care of a dog and of all the merits of having a family pet.

“Hold on,” I said.  “Before you begin this speech in earnest, have you taken out the garbage?”


“And have you, by any chance, emptied the dishwasher?”

“Good point.  I will be right back.”

I believe his speech will take some fine tuning.  I did not say, “no.”  Instead, we gave him a research project to find out the best options for breeds, adoption, etc.

In the mean time, my husband and I bring up the topic occasionally, and weigh the pros and cons.  Looking, looking for that balance, that moment when things will tip us into the realm of canine love and dependence.


16 thoughts on “Unmet Needs

  1. It’s just like having kids…if you say you will wait until you’re ready then you’ll never be ready! Please, whatever breed you decide to get, try to adopt first and foremost! Our pups were our first babies and we love them dearly. There are many animals out there looking for a great home.

  2. As a member of the anti-pet camp, I feel obliged to speak up here. NO NO NO! Don’t do it!! You will have to carry around small bags of poo!!!

  3. My husband and I talked about getting a dog. I am a cat person. And our current schedules mean that we don’t have the time to take care of a dog, and of course I refuse to pay for a dog-walker. So we’ve tentatively put off the conversation until we have a child old enough to take on a lot of that responsibility. But if you are looking at breeds, there are so many resources out there: Animal Planet has a show called dogs 101, and so many breeder 101 sites. And, as someone who has a natural fear of dogs, may I remind you to make sure you evaluate the dog’s personality very clearly.

  4. I like the research project approach! My friend’s dad always made her write an essay if she wanted something big like a dog…I think it’s a great way to prepare for them for the future. Good luck!

  5. Might I recommend that if you do get a dog, you make the last-walk-before-bed a job for the 12-year-old? Any time I feel tempted by the idea of a dog, I think about dog-walking at 10:30 PM on cold winter nights. Sure quells the urge!

  6. We are fortunate to have a dog and a few cats as well as our 3 children. Our first dog, which we got as a puppy, was almost more than we could handle even pre-kids! Our second dog, which we got as a 3 year old when our kids all under 7, has always been amazing, rarely a chore and is a wonderful companion. She gives more than she takes! Whenever friends are thinking about a dog, I always say consider an adult if you can as it reduces the effort so much! There are of course many homeless dogs and kijiji/the web is a good source for dogs whose families need a chage, but we got ours from a breeder as an adult and it worked for us as she was very well trained. Good luck!

  7. Get the dog, don’t think about it too much!! If you were able to read Dutch, you would have liked my post “Life with a puppy” (“Leven met een pup”). My husband and I decided in one week to get a dog and we didn’t regret it for a second. (Btw, we also have 3 kids, ages 13 and up, 2 cats and 3 chicken).

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