A Momma's dilemma: I don't want a dog
Whoa, Momma! reader Tori writes: I don't want a dog but my husband and son do. What should I do?
She posted this question at the end of a blog post I put up in July on the 5 questions you need to answer before getting a dog. I'm glad she raised this issue because I hear it a lot from other moms. They know that in the end, the family pet will be one more thing on their overloaded plate, and they don't have the energy. But then the kids turn on those sweet doe eyes and plead for a pet and the husband recalls fond memories of playing catch with his childhood golden Labrador and how important it is for the kids to learn about responsibility, caretaking, blah blah blah ... BALONEY. In a year from now, Mom will be the one with the responsibility and Mom will be doing most of the caretaking. She knows this and they know this. So now what?
My answer to Tori would be that the ones with the most interest in getting the dog should do the most work. What are your reasons for not wanting a dog, Tori? Is it the work, the mess, the cost? Those are valid issues that need to be addressed. Do you have a fear of dogs? That makes it an instant "no" in my opinion. You need to sit down as a family and talk specifics about what needs to be done if there's a dog and who will do it.
You see, we had the opposite problem in our house. The kids and I wanted a dog soon after our beloved pointer died of old age but my husband was reluctant, especially because the last few years of that dog's life were tough as the dog grew a little nutty and destructive. We needed a break and the kids were still only 3 and 7 at the time so I wasn't sure I could count on them to help me out. The compromise we worked out was that we'd wait a couple years until the kids were older. And before we even began looking at breeds, we agreed that I would walk the dog in the morning and our older son would walk her in the afternoon and that the kids and I would do most of the vet visits and baths.
Look again at those five questions I posted because they are meant as a cautionary tale. A dog is not a house plant. It's more like another child and cannot be forgotten. If you ask me, anybody who has a baby in the house is crazy to get a puppy that requires constant monitoring and house training. Much better to get an already-trained rescue dog or wait until the kids are older. Then look at your lifestyle before picking the size and breed. Your husband may have fond memories of his golden Lab, but is he willing to jog with the dog 30 to 60 minutes every day since that is what such an energetic dog requires?
We actually made a list. The Animal Planet has a nice breed selector site that helps you think about these issues. I wanted a dog but I really didn't want the extra work of an energetic breed or one that needs frequent grooming. So our list looked like this, in order of importance:
1: Good with kids
2: Smallish (under 50 pounds) to save the wear and tear on the house
3: More couch potato than athlete
4: Already house trained
5: No fussy grooming or shedding issues, if possible
I gave my list to the SPCA Tampa Bay and they were delighted to be on the lookout for me. We ended up falling in love with a puggle puppy (half pug, half beagle) that a couple in town no longer had room for before the SPCA got back to me. There went my already-house trained criteria! But in my defense, look at that face -- I can hear you saying "awwww". Wouldn't you know the SPCA called a week later with a 2-year-old Maltese-poodle mix, which meant no shedding and fully house trained. Oh well.
It's exciting to get a pet and it really is wonderful to have a creature in the house who just adores you. But it's also a big responsibility, so you are right to put the brakes on until you work things out.
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne