Dogless One Year Later

Harley on Vashon
Harley on Vashon

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 – the time she was mauled by a pit bull in London: £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?

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  1. annie May 20, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    No, you shouldn’t. The reality is that this will be your dog, and you don’t really want one – and is that fair to an animal?

    Olivia has three more years and than she is out on her own and can get a dog if she wants one.

    Tears and door slamming are temporary teenage tactics that harken back to the toddler years because teens are more like toddlers than they have been since they were toddlers – from an out of control growth stand point.

    You don’t have to continue having the discussion. It’s perfectly okay as the parent to close the door on the topic and refuse to have further arguments. It’s okay to not want a dog and not allow yourself to be bullied or guilted into it. It’s not being mean to put your needs first sometimes. When she is older, she’ll get that and she might even apologize for the door slamming. We’ve all pulled the “your mean” thing on our parents and they survived as we will.

  2. Diane May 20, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    A pet will open your wallet, but it will also help open and heal your heart. (if you let it)


  3. Lala May 20, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    You’re not being mean. “No” does not equate with “mean.” I’m not a mom, but moms seem to put so much guilt on themselves for setting boundaries.
    Enjoy your less encumbered life! It’s Abby-Time!

  4. Dampdynamite May 20, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    No. And it is OK to say the “n” word to your kids. Say it frequently, and you will find it gets easier and easier. “no” does not make you a bad, mean,mother. You can always use the line, “If I were your age I would think I was mean too. But, this is the way it is.”

  5. Jen May 20, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    No. Olivia will only be around a few more short years, so it can’t be her dog. If YOU don’t want one now, don’t get one. Help her volunteer at an animal shelter if being around animals is important to her. And has other posters have said, it’s OK to not engage in the discussion anymore. Topic closed, let’s talk about something else.

  6. Abigail - Site Author May 21, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Well, glad there are no split decisions here! Thank you all for confirming what I already knew. Sometimes a little group confirmation is all that is needed.

    Thank you. Standing strong on the no front now.

  7. Tammie May 21, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Nope…but support her love for dogs by reminding her that once she is out of college and living in her own place (not back with you), she can have as many dogs as is allowed! You could also suggest to her to volunteer at the local shelter. That might help her love of being with animals? Just a thought.

  8. CK May 21, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    I’m not allowed to answer that question because I know my mom will somehow sense it and call me out. So instead I’ll just say this: I was a teenager who brought three stray kittens (2 years between each) into the house. We had a dog whom I never helped with (because she was old), and I was convinced that I would take care of the kittens. I took care of exactly 0. My mom thinks that the “mouse problem” I currently have at my house is a directly related…17 years later. I think it might be time for me to bring her another kitten.

  9. jennifer June 1, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Stumbled across your blog and felt the urge to comment on this. If she really wants a dog to take care of why don’t you recommend her helping with a pet rescue or a pet shelter. There are plenty of dogs in these places that sadly will not all get adopted, but why not spend their last weeks getting some love and having somebody to play with?? I go through the agony of wanting to every cute dog i see in the shelter, but i simply cannot save them all. I currently would like another pup, but i already have 2, so instead i foster dogs until they find homes. It was hard to say goodbye to the first one, but it gets easier every time. I have helped place 6 dogs so far this year into good homes! Olivia moms right about the whole college thing, once you get to school you will want to experience dorm life, travel, and hang out with friends and believe me the last thing you will want is to be worrying about is a dog that has to be taken care of.

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