A very clear memory – me at the age of four. Fidgeting in the shade of a thick-trunked oak tree on the grassy lawn of a great-aunt’s house while my parents visited inside. A grey miniature schnauzer – I believe all my great-aunts had grey miniature schnauzers – was annoying me, running back and forth and yipping at my feet. I remember perfectly wondering, in an early display of intellectual curiosity, if a dog was smart enough to tell the difference between a cat and a human. Channeling my inner kitten, I began to climb the oak, meowing all the while. Said dog bit my leg. Through my tears, my four-year old self proclaimed a lifelong hated of dogs, and I spent the next 25 years keeping my distance from the beasts.
Then I had my first child. We walked on the beach every day just like the neighborhood dogs. Their barking scared me. Occasionally one would run up to us and I would involuntarily scream, certain it wanted to devour my baby. One afternoon shortly after Kid Two was born a dog ran over and peed on a sand castle I was building with Kid One, and in a hormonal fit of rage I ran after the dog’s owners and berated them for not keeping better track of their dog.
Then there was the dog poo – I refused to have anything to do with it and could not BELIEVE there was so much out there in the world. If I accidentally stepped in a pile, I’d just leave my shoes outside until they had to be thrown away, a behavior that never worked to my advantage. Once in Italy, with no extra shoes packed and no extra funds buy new, LL had to scrub the soles of my Birkenstocks over the hotel bidet with a Q-tip so I wouldn’t walk the Via De Medici barefoot, as threatened.
You DO know where this is going. Here’s how it happened: Kid Two asked for either a tropical fish tank or a dog for his 10th birthday. We bought him a 30-gallon tank with a handful of bala sharks. This is a type of freshwater minnow that, as it turns out, need a big tank to thrive. For his 11th birthday he got a 125-gallon tank and other plants and fish from the bala’s native Southeast Asian river habitat.
Fish are fun enough, especially when you’re feeding them frozen bloodworms or live mosquitoes. But he still wanted a dog. LL pointed out that with Kid One – who is certainly in the running for World’s Best Big Brother – starting college soon and not around as much, Kid Two could use a lovable distraction. We started watching dog shows on television. I started watching people and their dogs on the beach and tried to imagine myself doing the same thing. I started making plans to fence in the back yard.
So the day after Thanksgiving, after watching the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on DVR, we told Kid Two he could start looking for a dog. A month later we were at the pound, bringing home a three pound fur ball who was thought to be eight weeks old, and who had spent the previous two weeks in foster care.
I confess I did cry that first weekend; it was cold and rainy and I didn’t want the dog to use the house as a big toilet and he wouldn’t walk on the leash and . . .
. . . but that was just the first weekend. Some people get a dog to prepare them for having children. For me, the kids were the prep for having a dog. I’m more patient and accepting than I was pre-kid. I know more about taking care of others. Like the boys, he needs warmth, attention, discipline, lots of exercise, and healthy food. Unlike the boys, he needs to sniff other dogs’s behinds and dig up dead birds on the beach to roll around in.
Koah has been ruling our house for five months now. Thankfully, he’s a smart, likable creature who was easily housebroken and will do any sort of trick for a treat. We take him to the beach every day, and he’s developed a taste for sand crabs and fuzzy seaweeds. I try and give him lots room to explore but keep him on a short enough leash that he doesn’t traumatize an unsuspecting child. So far, it’s all good.
And the very, very best part about having a dog? Seeing how happy Kid Two and Koah are together. LL was right –