Adoption of the Four-Legged Variety
We are getting a dog.
On the surface this statement doesn’t carry the weight of, say, We are having a baby or We are moving to outer space. (Neither of those things are true, but of the two we are more likely to move to outer space.)
Below the surface, however, this statement is laden with tangled emotions.
My kids have been asking – begging – for a dog. They ask friends and strangers if they can hold, pet, walk their dogs. They spin tales about games of fetch and long walks and slobbery kisses, all with our very own dog.
I am not anti-dog. I was raised with pets, and before we had children, we had a four-legged baby. Gretchen, a stunning, solid black German Shepherd Dog, was smarter than most people (Mark and I included). She had two orthopedic dog beds, special food, and annual trips to the doggy ophthalmologist (yep, she saw the eye doctor more regularly than I did).
Gretchen also had hair. So much hair that continually jumped off her body and onto my floor. I longed for a Locks of Love-like organization for dogs; we would have been honored at the gala for our generous dog hair donations. And now we’d like to recognize our Platinum Level Contributors…
Our sweet, hairy girl passed away unexpectedly when our oldest son was just five months old. I cried for days, and then off and on for weeks. We still get misty sometimes when we talk about her. But here’s the thing… While I miss that specific dog, I have not missed having a dog. I have not missed sweeping and vacuuming hair, or wiping muddy doggy paws.
For the last seven years I’ve been responsible for the care and feeding of two small humans. Wiping is listed in the skills section of my resume (counters, noses, floors, bottoms). Parents know: this is a labor of love, but it’s labor all the same. Often monotonous, rarely simple, definitely tiresome. Magical and lovely, too. But let’s not downplay the work involved.
And so, over and over, I’ve denied requests for a dog. My party line has been, “I’m only house-training one living creature at a time, so until everyone in this house is bathroom independent… no dogs.”
We’re basically there on house training all the people in this house. It’s not perfect, but it’s easier. I knew that excuse wouldn’t last much longer, yet I still didn’t feel ready to add a dog to our family. And then 2012 happened.
I believe every year comes with a mix of good and bad. Sometimes, though, a year knocks you upside the head in a way others have not. In 2012 I was repeatedly smacked by this thought: tomorrow is not a guarantee.
My mother stared down cancer. One day, everything was status quo, the next I was Googling survival statistics. She beat it, but I’m not going to lie: my world did not move forward during that time. We were in a holding pattern, holding off tomorrow until we could make today into something good.
A dear friend was not so blessed. She fought, and fought, and fought. She held onto her faith that there would be tomorrows, even when it was pretty clear the days were small in number. Her family of four is now three, braving all of their tomorrows in a way they never wanted to.
And then on December 14 we all witnessed 26 families lose their tomorrows. Like most of you, I spent that day – and many that followed – in tears, full of questions, feeling fear and rage. Almost certainly, you too had ping-ponging thoughts, some sensible, others borderline crazy. I thought of little else but Sandy Hook for days; still not a day goes by that I don’t remember and pray for those families.
On December 14, amid the devastation, one odd thought kept bubbling to the top. Get a dog, it said. And I would say, Not yet, I’m not thinking about dogs today, of all days. Every couple hours the thought would come back. Get a dog.
Finally, the edict was accompanied by a follow-up thought: Why would you postpone joy for one more day? And then I understood. Tomorrow is not a guarantee.
I can keep waiting for the perfect time, when my children handle all manner of wiping for themselves (counters, noses, floors, bottoms). I can keep my floors hair-free. Or we can embrace the messiness, for with it will come all those things my boys dream about: games of fetch, long walks, and slobbery kisses, all with our very own dog.
So. We are getting a dog.
We’re hoping to adopt, and therefore have actually postponed the joy a tad. We need to be matched with a dog that will do well in a house with busy kids, and we need be home for an extended period to let the dog adjust. In a few weeks we’ll be finished traveling for a while, and it will be time.
It will be time to put aside lazy thoughts, thoughts of dog hair and muddy paws. It will be time to embrace the joy. Because tomorrow is not a guarantee.