When Your Family Wants A Dog, But You Don’t
I’d like to start this post by admitting that I’m not a dog person. I don’t like the smell, or the poop, or the licks. All of it is uncomfortable for me.
I’m not interested in petting your dog. I don’t want it to lick me, and I don’t really care how many times you tell me that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s mouth, because dogs could have alcohol wipes for tongues, and I’d still think about all the times I’ve see a dog lick its butt every time it licks my face. I don’t think they are cute when they wag their tails or when they make sad faces or do silly things. I just can’t with dogs. I can’t.
But here’s the thing, my wife always wanted a dog. We’ve been married for over a decade, and during the first several years of our marriage, she asked for a dog all the time. I gave her the aforementioned “reasons I don’t want a dog” list, told her I couldn’t do it and, eventually, she stopped bringing it up.
But then, our kids came along, and two out of the three really wanted a dog. For the past several years, we’ve had some version of this conversation:
“Can we get a dog, Dad?”
Multiply that convo by one bazillion, and you will get a glimpse at how the past several years have looked.
I’m sure there are dog people reading this with a confused or disgusted look on their face. To some, what I wrote above might as well be a cardinal sin. But I’m not writing this for the dog lovers. I’m writing it for the people like me, who just can’t with the dogs and the poop and the pee and the licking. I get you. I hear you. And I know your struggle when it comes to holding your ground and not getting one of those hyper little fur balls. I’d love to tell you that I’m still one of you. I’d love to say that I held my ground until I was in the ground.
But I didn’t. And I’m sorry.
The turning point was this. My ten-year-old son developed dog phobia. And for me, as a no-dog enthusiast, that all sounds like money in the bank, but it wasn’t. It was actually a major issue, and I had a ton of empathy (and sympathy) for the little guy.
We tried a few alternatives. We watched movies about dogs, read books about dogs, talked about dogs… We even took him to the pound to meet dogs.
None of it worked.
Most of it freaked him out.
The trip to the pound was particularly troubling for him.
I honestly don’t know where the phobia came from, but what I do know is that he was terrified, and it was getting to the point that he wouldn’t go on family walks, ride his bike around the neighborhood, or visit family members with dogs.
One day, while at soccer practice, a dog ran onto the field, and Tristan ran and hid in some bushes, crying the whole time. And once it was all said and done, and we’d calmed him down, he was faced with this rich embarrassment. His whole team had seen his deepest fear. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that, so I can only imagine how horrible it was for him. The sad, red-eyed, dried up tears, expression on his face is something I never wanted to see on his face again.
It was then that we spoke with a friend of mine who’s a therapist, and he told me what I dreaded most: “Get a dog. It’ll fix the problem.”
And suddenly my son and I were both facing something we dreaded.
Tristan wasn’t happy about the idea at all until we offered to let him name the dog, which was a rescue dog we got from the Humane Society — part-dachshund with a few other breeds mixed in for personality.
Tristan threw around a few names, everything from Sparky to Fart Squirrel, but eventually settled on Pikachu. Considering I didn’t care for dogs, and I hated Pokémon, all of this seemed to capture parenthood in a nutshell.
It only took a couple days for Tristan to warm up to the dog, but now he is downright head over heels in love. He tells everyone about the dog. He draws pictures of the dog. Everything is about the dog now.
And me, well, I’ll admit… the dog loves me. He jumps in my lap. He whines when I don’t give him attention. He looks at me with dark, sorrowful eyes whenever I don’t lean down to pat his little brown head. He likes to lay on his back and wait for someone, anyone, to rub his tummy, something I have mixed feelings about because everyone thinks it look cute, while I think it looks a tad distasteful.
But I must admit, here’s something about having Pikachu around that makes our home feel fuller. It feels warmer, like the dog filled some gap I never really noticed. And when I think about that, it feels like we got this dog to help my son with his fear of dogs, and ended up gaining another family member.
I just wrote that. I can’t believe it.
I hope you’re happy.
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