I never wanted a dog.
I mean, I liked dogs just fine. Just…other people’s dogs.
Since as far back as I can remember, I have told anyone and everyone that I’d never have a dog in my house. Dogs are messy, I’d say. I’m too much of a control freak, I’d argue. I don’t know what to do when they bark, and I don’t do poop. I can’t tell a Schnauzer from a Mastiff, and I have no idea what to feed a dog. And, unless Cesar Milan was coming to live with me for six months, chances were slim that a dog would ever live under my roof.
As I married and had children, the day-to-day stresses of toddlerhood and sleep deprivation further bolstered my claim that a dog would never join our family. Back then, with two kids under the age of 3 and floors filled with Legos and those itty-bitty Barbie shoes, all my energy went into trying to keep two humans alive until their father got home to rescue me. I was surviving on caffeine and the sheer will to live. I had nothing more to give. There was no way I’d survive potty training one more creature in this house.
When my son turned 6, he started asking for a dog. He’d plead with me about helping with the pup, and he insisted he was the only kid he knew who didn’t have a Fido in the backyard. He loved visiting friends with animals and could often be found playing fetch with the neighborhood dogs. I’d watch him and see the joy on his face, but still I remained firm: no dog. We had Scouts, track, and soccer, and I was trying to revive a career I’d abandoned to stay home with our children. Our lives were a wash of homework, school events, and playdates.
We were far too busy for a dog.
The kids got older and even more relentless about their dreams of sharing their lives with a canine. I grudgingly watched as they grew into being helpful, responsible children. They took out the trash. They emptied the dishwasher. They did their homework without being asked. They got good grades. It became harder and harder to find an excuse every time they pushed for a pet. I tried to tell them that our lives would change forever, that we’d be responsible for a defenseless creature that would rely on us for all its basic needs. I tried to tell them how expensive puppies were, how much dog food costs, and how often they pooped.
We were not getting a dog.
Period. End of story. Not going to happen, no way, no how.
And then I had an epiphany.
I realized, as I watched my kids play with the neighbor’s new Labrador puppy, the real reason behind why we didn’t have a dog in our home. The answer to why I was so resistant to letting an animal share my home came flooding through, and I was stunned.
I was scared to love an animal.
When I was pregnant with my son, I was secretly scared that I was too selfish to love another human more than myself. I worried that I wouldn’t instinctively know what to do for a baby, and I wondered what I’d do in an emergency. I’d spent 30 years on my own, living selfishly, and I was terrified that I’d meet my child and not be able to love him with my full heart. Those fears were washed away the instant that I held him. I knew I could love him and do right by him for the rest of my life. It was the same with my daughter.
I can’t imagine my life without them.
That day, watching my kids play in my neighbor’s yard, I realized that my feelings about dogs were similar to how I’d felt about having children. I realized that my capacity to love my children was proof that I could also learn to love and care for an animal. I shared my feelings with my husband, and after he got over the shock of hearing the words “I think we should get a dog” come out of my mouth, he agreed.
For several months, we searched for the right dog for our family. Website applications, phone calls, and visit after visit to local animal rescues all to no avail. We contacted breeders and even had a puppy sold out from under us within days of arrival. And, just when I was ready to give up hope and starting to think the universe was telling me that I was indeed too selfish to care for a dog, we met our new pup through the help of a friend and a local doggy day care.
I saw her face, and I knew I would love her forever.
Daisy the Shih Tzu joined our family last week, and already, I can’t imagine my life without her. Poop and all.