Ever since Harley died almost a year ago, Olivia has begged for a replacement and our circular conversation goes something like this:
Me: Liv, I really don’t want another dog. It will be me who takes care of it. I will be the one who winds up walking it and feeding it and picking up the poop.
O: I promise I will take care of it!
Me: You say that now, and you probably will for the first month or so, until you get bored of it. You can’t even remember to take your dishes down to the kitchen even when I remind you daily. Imagine when its poop I am telling you to clean up. You didn’t do much to take care of Harley.
O: But I will! It will be my dog. I didn’t walk Harley because she wouldn’t let me. But I wanted to.
Me: Plus, you only have 3 more years of high school and then you will be off to college. Then it will be me who is left with the dog, and you will have the heartbreak of leaving your dog behind.
O: There are some seniors at school who will be bringing their new little dogs to college. I asked them.
Me: Well, most colleges won’t allow it, I promise you.
O: I could live off-campus.
Me: My other concern is school right now. I need you to show me that you are taking more responsibility towards improving your grades. You have kind of checked out of school. I know you are working harder now, because I have mentioned this before.
O: I am working harder. I do have responsibility. If I improve my grades can I get a dog?
The conversation usually winds up with Olivia in tears, slamming doors, screaming about what a mean mother I am. When I have wavered, it has ended with a computer screen held out showing the cutest of the pet shelter residents, and pleading, “oooh, can we pleeeease get her? PRETTY PLEEEEASE!”
In circles we go. All it takes for me is to think of Harley and our last two years together when I had to pick her up off the floor because she could no longer stand up on her own. She lost control of her bowels and I had to take her out at 2am and spray her down with the garden hose. She became hostile. And then there was the overwhelming expense â€“ the time she was mauled by a pit bull in London: Â£1000. Hit by a car in NJ: $1000. Liver disease MRI: $500. Expensive diet food, meds, vitamins: thousands.There was the walking, the fetching when she wandered off, the cleaning of barf when she got into garbage, the scrubbing when she rolled in excrement on the side of the highway, the tomato juice bath when she was sprayed by the skunk, the tumbleweeds of hair EVERYWHERE, the begging as I prepared dinner, the constant barking.
Olivia says, “but don’t you miss having a dog?”
And I think about what I miss the most: someone greet me when I arrive home; Her sighs as she settles beside me while I am at the computer; watching her lie in the sun; rubbing her “play ears;” her devotion.
The list is overwhelmingly skewed toward the negative, and yet I waver. Everywhere I turn these days I am faced with pet shelter ads, or other signs that scream dog at me.
But I have been happy with my dogless life. I have spent almost 9 hard years taking care of kids and critters alone. Life is finally getting simpler. I am less encumbered, free. The reality is that Olivia heads off to school in three years and I am left with another little critter for the next 15 who will break my heart when she gets old, so that I will be out there again at 2am spraying off her bum with the garden hose rather than face a decision that I would rather not have to make.
And yet I still ask, should the mean mommy give in?