So You Bought The Kids A Puppy And Now You’re Filled With Deep Regret
You thought it would be all long walks and undying love but so far it’s just barking and peeing and nipping.
So you bought the family a puppy and you’re regretting it. You thought it would be all dog sweaters and long, restful walks and undying love but so far it’s just barking and peeing and nipping. Plus you have kids who haven’t suddenly stopped being kids and you’re wondering why you made so much extra work for yourself. I get it.
No one thought it was a good idea for me to get a dog at all. Especially not me. We lived in a newly-rented townhouse with, of all things, white carpets, the most aggressive kind of carpet ever. A townhouse I could barely afford, owned by a landlord who would have preferred I had two kids instead of four and definitely, definitely did not want pets. We did not have a car. We did not know how to train dogs or have money for extra vet expenses. And yet. We were going through a divorce together, my kids and I, and walking around in a daze. We were all sad and lost together and suddenly my son’s 7th birthday was coming. So we went to the shelter and got a puppy. A terrible idea.
She was a brown and black little thing, extra furry with unfortunate teeth, as one friend once put it, and around 10 weeks old but no one knew for sure. She was found scavenging in the local dump where it was assumed she had been left by some awful person I will never forgive, and my kids fell in love with her instantly. Good, I thought, this will distract them. That’s what I thought she would be to me, too, at first: a distraction. Something to get us through our sadness. A bribe to make them forget I had made a colossal mess of their lives.
You could, maybe even should, judge me for putting this little thought into the care and keeping of a living animal. You could wag your finger at me and remind me that I could barely train humans to pee where they were supposed to, let alone a dog. And I realized this was not my best decision that very first night, when we brought her home and the boys named her Lily and played with her and watched her drink water out of a bowl we put on the ground as she gave them furtive side-eye. In that moment I knew, and I had lots of those moments over the next few years: every time Lily peed in the house, say, which was always, or got into the garbage, which was her part-time job. Or that time she pooped on the pillow right beside my head and thank God my hair was tied up because my kids had already given me lice and I thought, “How is this my life now?” When she climbed into the laundry basket to delicately chew through the straps of only my most expensive bras, when she ran out in traffic or ate her weight in chocolate or managed to climb up on the kitchen counter to eat my fancy thin-crust pizza with goat cheese, yes I thought about getting rid of her.
And somehow she became our best thing. Even my best thing. Always in my peripheral, always walking beside me and glancing up at me with a dog smile.
She was not a convenient dog ever, and no one would have blamed me for rehoming her. Everyone told me to rehome her — everyone. But she was one of us. She was an unfortunate; this was how I came to see her and us together. She had unfortunate teeth and matted fur and looked an awful lot like Scrat from Ice Age. She also loved my boys as much as I did. Would sleep on top of their shoes with a sigh of contentment. Find her happy corner where she could watch them in every rental house we moved to. Lay across their laps under a blanket on the couch when they watched movies. Sit between their knees at the dinner table waiting for scraps and pets and love, always love.
And somehow she became our best thing. Even my best thing. Always in my peripheral, always walking beside me and glancing up at me with a dog smile. Always making me laugh with her dramatics, always sleeping on her side of the bed once she got over pooping on my pillow. My constant companion, somewhat accidentally but constant and loyal and wonderful nonetheless.
Give it time, is what I’m trying to tell you here. Yes you just made travel way harder and your day is now going to be punctuated by letting the dog out and training and guarding the garbage if you have a scrounger like ours, but it’s better. I don’t know exactly why, but it is.
Lily was with us for 16 years, the whole of my boys' childhood. She waited to die until my youngest son was 18 and it was OK for her to go. She was their benchmark, their furry North Star. If I had rehomed her, she would have found love somewhere else for sure. A sense of permanence, regular visits to the vet. She could have been a kerchief kind of dog but instead, she was ours.