Dilemma

I have always wanted a dog. I would have been happy to have a cat, and now we have one, a cat we love. My Mom let us have those tiny turtles, goldfish, a 10 cm tortoise and a pair of gerbils, but nothing that could mess up the house and nothing that would require much work, because she knew she would end up taking care of a creature like that. My Dad brought a dog named Tally-ho to his marriage, but he died before I was born so I lost my one opportunity to grow up with a dog.

It was when the boys were in the process of leaving home and launching themselves into adulthood that we got our two now late bunnies, and Catja walked into our lives, all welcome distractions from the feelings of loss I was experiencing. All summer long, I wondered how it would be when Mollie left for Bryn Mawr. I worried that cb would be devastated and become depressed. Despite this not happening with the boys, I thought he would experience Mollie’s departure differently, because she is a “Daddy’s Girl.” Which, by the way, does not mean loved more. I also worried about how I would take it, because of the significance of the last child going away, and the oppressive thoughts of aging, feelings of loss and sadness, even grief that threatened to overwhelm me. Before Mollie left, I dragged her to Petland, where we played with the two most adorable kittens, and became exuberantly allergic in the process. So no more cats. When I made a semi-spontaneous stop at Petland on Thursday en route to Trader Joe’s, I said to myself that if they had any very young puppies that were extremely adorable, it would be a “sign” that cb and I should take one. Most of the time, Petland’s dogs and cats are older. All cats and dogs there are rescue now, which is wonderful. I like it better than going to The Animal Rescue League location where things seem so much more disorganized.

Wouldn’t you know it, though. This time, there was an entire litter of puppies – 4 boys and 2 girls, 9 weeks old, coonhound-husky mixes, absolutely adorable, among the most adorable puppies I had ever seen! Back story: rescued from a house in West Virginia where someone was hoarding dozens of puppies. These six puppies were in process of being de-wormed and had already been examined by the vet, received one or two shots, had collars on and all seemed extremely frisky. The two components of this canine mix are reputed to have wonderful temperaments, loyalty, intelligence, and socialization. They are gentle. They are not hypoallergenic and they tend to shed a lot. Of course, I was taken with them. I asked if I could play with the two girls, one of whom (Lucy) was the runt of the litter, white and black, and the other of whom (Ruby) was brown and black and had brown eyebrows. In the little back cubby, I held and petted each in turn, and then let them wander on the floor. Both were very cuddly, loving to be held, and both wagged tails incessantly while exploring the cubby with delighted inquisitiveness. They also wrestled each other in the cutest possible way. I asked the staff member all sorts of questions about puppy care, and on Cloud 9 , left the store, shopped, got home with plans to create a yummy dinner. Surprisingly, cb left work early and drove up just as i was unloading car, by 6 pm. So excited was I about puppies – kind of favoring the runt at that point – that I burst out with the news of their existence and adorableness, and my willingness even to postpone the evening meal in order to introduce cb to Lucy and Ruby. Let me digress a moment here to explain why I believe I prefer female dogs – because male dogs tend to be more territorial and many also seem prone to hump furniture and legs, even after being neutered, which I hate. Anyway, cb agreed to check them out, but warned me not to get my hopes up. At this time, I was quite sure we needed to get one of these puppies. This time, both of us played with the two puppies. cb liked Ruby the best, deeming Lucy “funny-looking.” Which she is not, just smaller.

By yesterday morning, I was pretty hyped up about getting one of the puppies, worried that by this time, someone would surely have snapped all of them up. All day, I chatted with patients and colleagues about how I wanted one of the puppies, and without exception, everyone I shared my thoughts with opined that I should definitely go for it. I would not regret it, they promised, although with frequent caveats about how much work it would be.

Peops also say marriage is work, a belief that never resonated with me. Raising kids is work, though, in terms of care, feeding, discipline and time commitment. To raise children, you have to be willing to put certain things on the back burner for a long time, but while parenting limits you in some ways, it is a remarkably mind, heart and soul expanding experience filled with unequalled challenges and joy. To me, marriage has not been limiting in any way, so maybe that is why I have not considered it work.

Having a cat requires minimal commitment and expense. There is the annual vet visit, occasional sick visit, occasional flea treatment. They housebreak themselves; we merely empty the litter box. We also feed her, and cuddle her when she wishes it. On occasion, we have needed to bathe her and replace a lost collar. We have Au Purr to care for her when we are out of town and they do an excellent job. We do sometimes attempt to rescue still-living creatures she brings inside, and sometime just clean up what remains of macerated corpses. Since we learned of the deaths of those two tiny baby bunnies in July, probably due to occult internal injuries and sepsis, I now suspect that even the creatures we rescue and release probably are doomed either because of similar internal damage, or possibly cat-caused disabilities.

I get that dogs are as high maintenance as cats are low maintenance. Besides the basic feedings, there are so many other things. They need to be housebroken, walked multiple times a day, trained not to chew up furniture and other items, to stay, sit, heel, and not to bark, jump, bite or claw. You have to carry around plastic bags in which to collect their poop. They demand a lot of attention and play time. They like to jump on tables, eat anything that is lying around, and run after cars and bicycles. They are escape artists. Going out of town on an impulse is not possible. Vacations must be planned with them in mind. They need to be walked during the day while one is at work, and on freezing cold or rainy or icy days, and very early and very late at night.What does a dog do while one is at work? Is crating a dog cruel? How well does the dog get along with the other pets? Does the dog make a racket, barking, when one is not home? They need frequent baths, because they stink otherwise, they have bad breath, and they shed a lot. We would not know how allergic we would be. And so much more that I do not even know about, because I know nothing about dog care.

So the cuteness and the companionship, loyalty, and unconditional love a sweet, affectionate puppy and later, dog, provide are all well and good, even wonderful, but with the other things I want to do – getting house in order, working out, more quilting, advancing career, traveling a little – do I really want to tie myself down again?

Besides, the panic I felt at Mollie’s leaving is gone. The sadness I expected has not happened. The days before and immediately after dropping her off were, I admit, a bit rocky. But I am not worried about her now because she seems to be adjusting well so far. And work and life are so busy, there is no time to brood. I realize she spent less and less time at home over the past few years, so as I sit here blogging this Saturday morning, she might just as well be right here, home in Pittsburgh, sleeping in within her bedroom downstairs or out doing something or other as being in Philadelphia. I sometimes missed her presence when she was asleep or doing her own thing even while she was still home, but other times, I got so absorbed in the things I was doing that her whereabouts did not cross my mind. I find that now is hardly different. I do not see her in the mornings or evenings now, but before, I might not either, for days – during school, she would leave earlier than I and over summer, would rise later and often be home after my bedtime. And cb is so involved with various looming deadlines that he has not had time to dwell on Mollie’s being away. So we are both doing fine.

It would probably be a good idea to get used to and enjoy this new era of coupledom that cb and I have. No need to complicate it with a dog just yet. It feels like the puppies are the only and cutest puppies ever and this will be our only opportunity to own such a delightful creature. But let’s be realistic – that is not true. There will always be a puppy in need of a good home. Ruby and Lucy are not the only cute puppies I will ever see. I need to learn – at my leisure – about what it would take to own a dog. I would like to have fewer work demands before making such a commitment so that I would have more time to devote to caring for, hopefully, her. Although I am getting older, it is not like my life is over. There will still be time to fulfill the dream of dog ownership even if I wait five years. It does feel like part of my heart is being torn out, or at least bruised a bit, as I move to decision to forego acquiring Lucy or Ruby, because I did fall in love with them a little.

It is just not time yet.

This entry was posted on Saturday, September 5th, 2015 at 11:36 am and is filed under aspirations, cats, compassion, craziness, dilemma horns, friends & family, Funny things, love, priorities. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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