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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Dog Duty

Sunday we adopted a dog from the city pound. The children are eager to feed and walk him and earnest in their analysis of his every gesture. Tom and I, on the other hand, are just hoping this isn’t a huge mistake.

It took years of begging on Megan’s part to get us to even seriously consider a dog. Then we had months of discussion until every family member was willing. I myself have vacillated quite a bit. Late last year I thought I’d be ready after my mom died, but then when she did, I realized I had more freedom of movement that I’d had in a decade, which I wasn’t ready to give it up. Then, this summer I started feeling open to the idea of a dog. I think it was when Megan said, “I want a best friend to tell all my secrets to” with such sincerity that I couldn’t forget my own childhood dog, who throughout adolescence was the family member I felt closest to. Tom was still resistant and asked the kids lots of questions about who was going to do what. Finally, I think he felt outnumbered. When Tom started looking up doggy pictures on the Internet, I knew we were on our way.

It was fun visiting the two biggest pounds in our area and seeing my children’s enthusiasm and tenderness. Megan and Luke were particularly taken with a medium sized brown mutt who is thought to be part pit bull terrier. He had a piece of cloth over a shaved part of his leg, and Luke was concerned that no one else would want him. I was concerned about the pit bull part (despite everyone’s assurances that it’s the training, not the breed, that matters), and at the last minute tried to steer them toward a smaller mutt at the SPCA. Luke, however, was adamant. He had understood that the city pound kills the dogs they can’t find homes for, whereas the SPCA does not. That was hard to argue with.

But Thursday night, just after I signed the adoption papers, I was suddenly hit with regret and fear. I felt like crying, knowing I was giving up a little of the freedom I’ve been able to reclaim as the kids have gotten older. Sure the kids will put his food out, and after he’s trained, they’ll be able to walk him. But I’m the one who is going to have to make sure the dog gets walked sometime during the day. I’m the one who is going to make a dog-care plan when we go away for the weekend. I’m the one who’s going to feel responsible. During the two days we were waiting to be approved for the adoption, I wondered if there was a way I could get out of it without breaking my children’s little hearts. Finally a neighbor said, “You won’t regret anything you do that will be good for your kids.” That helped.

The morning before we went to get the dog, I told Megan and Luke they wouldn’t be able to hit each other any more because it might upset the dog. I explained that he might want to protect the person getting hit and could bite the hitter. So they laughingly hit each other all the way home from Quaker meeting, celebrating their last chance to fight in the car.

So far I have to say it has worked. We’ve had two days of family peace, and Luke hasn’t complained once about his job as poop-picker-upper. Megan shines in the role of nurturer, and Tom even offered to take the dog running this morning. For my part, I still feel uneasy about the new responsibility, but I feel reassured that we got a great dog. He sits quietly in his crate during dinner, and after a little barking the first night, he was quiet all last night. He is playful, but not hyper. He’s the color of a potato, so we named him Spud.


Blogger elise said...

I too got a dog for my kids. My two daughters really wanted him and my son who had been attacked by a dog did not want him (all the more reason to get one as I see it). I've had Beau for 4 1/2 years now (he was 5 years old when we got him). Although I have times when I count the days until I will be dog free again, I have never regretted my decision. He is a fully trained, loveable, golden retriever and he's great. However, I will never really be a "dog person", yet I still don't regret having him. Pretty much all the responsibility falls on me as you are worried it will fall to you, but I still don't regret my decision. I saw the choice as my kids either growing up having the fun experience of having a dog or growing up and saying mom and dad never let us have a dog because they didn't want the complication in their life. Yes, I was not happy cleaning up the twelve piles of poop all through my house when he had diarrhea and spending 560.00 to board him when we went on vacation but that's life! By the way, I also have three cats (one for each kid!) but I am a cat person! That along with a bunch of fish means I am done getting pets...I think. The "complications" of life are what makes it interesting. Good luck!

8:17 AM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

I'm afraid that about the training isn't strictly true. My family had a pitt bull and he was truly a family pet, much loved and nurtured, but he was extremely aggressive and protective when he got to be about a year and a half. People couldn't walk past our house without risking being bitten. He even bit my brother once. We loved him, but it was very hard caring for him. He was pure pitt bull, so that may make some difference. Just be aware. They are naturally agressive, it's not their fault, but as an owner you need to take precautions to protect the people in your community.

Posted by Isabella's Mom to Imperfect Serenity at 7/11/2006 03:35:21 PM

9:29 AM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

Just to be clear, the last post was made my Isabella's Mom, not me. I just moved it because it had been attached to a picture post that I moved. So far the dog is doing great, but I appreciate the warning to be cautious.

9:31 AM  
Blogger lori said...

Hi Eileen,

Great blog!

thank you for admitting that as a mom the thought of getting a dog feels like more responsiblity not a load of furry fun!

We had dogs growing up and I LOVE dogs. My boys want a dog. But I don't want to take care of a dog. And like you, it will be me taking care of a dog during the day. I've gotten out of the decision by telling my son that we'll get a dog when he's seven and can safely walk the dog alone and by then his little brother will be out of diapers. No diapers and pooper scoopers! I'm hoping he forgets by the time he's seven!

Lori T.

11:39 AM  
Anonymous juliloquy said...

Pictures, please! And congratulations!

3:10 PM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

Yes, I'll post a picture soon! In the meantime I have to warn Lori: seven is not old enough to walk a dog yourself! Both my seven-year-old and my nine-year-old love to walk with the dog, but neither of them can hold Spud (at six-months-old and 34 lbs)if he sees a squirel he wants to chase. Just now Luke was walking him when he saw a dog across Henry Ave (a very busy street) and would have pulled Luke into traffic if I hadn't been there to grab the leash. And that was a possibility I hadn't even thought to worry about!

4:30 PM  
Blogger Michelle O'Neil said...

I think it is Temple Grandin, in her book Animals in Translation,who reports that while Pit Bulls and Rot Weilers make up a very small percentage of total dogs in the U.S., they make up a very high percentage of dog bites. Just be careful!

2:39 PM  

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