Are you sure you want that dog?

Published: Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 1:44 p.m.

When I was little, I periodically asked my parents if we could get a dog. I made the standard deal all children make — promising to clean up after it and feed it and take it for walks — that all parents know is made in earnest but ultimately means nothing.

Whenever I brought it up, my mother would stare into the distance and blankly recite a list of chores she could see herself doing in this alternate, burdensome, dog-owning universe.

I could see her face become more and more sullen the longer she thought about it, and the process was exhausting enough for both of us that I'd eventually drop the subject and ask for ice cream instead.

It wasn't that my parents didn't let us have any pets at all. Growing up, my brothers and I had a roster of fish, hamsters, turtles and the like that, although they lacked longevity, certainly had their fair share of sentimental value.

It was just that these were all “flushable” pets that required a modicum of effort to maintain. Were one to incur fatal health problems or misfortune, its remains could be interred in minutes with a shoebox and a trowel. A dog, on the other hand, would require phone calls, paperwork and trips to the vet.

There's also an investment of time. Dogs tend to live for more than a decade. Even under the watchful eye of the most caring fourth grader, hamsters crap out after a few years, tops.

But despite my parents' airtight case against getting a dog, I still wanted one. I would watch old, black-and-white reruns of “Lassie” after school and imagine the fun I could have as a rural latchkey child, falling into various wells, mine shafts and caves with just my faithful dog to save me.

I was a huge fan of the show “Flipper,” too, but convincing my parents to move to south Florida and get me a pet dolphin seemed even more unlikely.

My dream of dog ownership finally came true about a year ago when my girlfriend and I adopted a brown mutt from an animal shelter. When we first took her out of her crate, she curled up in my girlfriend's lap, and we both almost threw up from how adorable it was.

Unfortunately, things got less and less adorable from there.

During the first week, if the dog wasn't in plain view, it could reasonably be assumed that she was in another room gnawing on something, urinating on something or both. I quickly realized that, domesticated or not, there are certain realities that come with a 45-pound animal living in your house.

There are certainly positive aspects to having a dog. They offer companionship, loyalty and comic relief, but those aren't the qualities I find myself relating to friends and family members in the stories I tell about ours.

More often than not, I find myself focusing on the number of cooling muffins she ate while I was in the shower or the time our house smelled for hours like excrement and bleach after we wanted to sleep in a little bit one morning instead of taking her out right away.

I would never give our dog up, and I'm glad she's with us, but when my future children ask me if they can have one of their own — one they'll clean up after and feed and take for walks — I'll stare off into the distance as my face grows ever sullen and ask them if they wouldn't rather have some ice cream instead.

Contact John Houder at

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top