Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In memory of a good dog

Today, Dr. G's parents had to have their Australian Shepherd Dog, Katydid, put down. In memory of Katy, I write about dogs.

I didn't grow up with animals, really. We had sporadic experiences with pet hamsters, a couple of different cats for short periods of time, and once, a turtle that we caught on our rural Oklahoma road. There were times we had chickens and ducks, and even pigs, but those weren't pets. They were experiments in self-sufficiency.

For two weeks we once had a black lab mix named Lizabelle. My mom realized quickly that she was going to be the one to have to take care of it. Lizabelle went back to the pound. Guess my mom felt four children (numbers five and six had not yet made their entrances) constituted enough responsibility for one woman.

I waffle. Sometimes I think I don't need any more responsibilities. Sometimes I think my kids need a dog.

Here are the points that make me consider dog ownership.
  • I am always a little nervous around animals. I don't want my kids to feel that way. From the photo above, you can see that currently they don't.
  • We lived in Salt Lake at the time Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped. I actually saw her at Liberty Park once, during her ordeal, without knowing it was her. (If you remember, her face was covered when she was out in public.) I have always thought there would be a good chance that horrible thing never would have happened to her if there'd been a dog sleeping at the foot of her bed.
  • I would like someone to go with me to help me feel secure and protected if I feel like going on a walk in the dark. Or to go with me up a mountain trail. Or to camp with my family in bear country.
  • I am horribly allergic to cats. Heh.
On the other hand, I have two kids with ADHD and two with asthma. I'm a homeschooling mom. I am trying to maintain a freelance writing and editing business. I am trying to get the bare bones basics done in terms of exercise and spiritual practice. I am already neglecting my own personal and creative needs far more than I think is healthy. My husband is a first-year professor. I see him usually between 7 and 10 p.m. I am lucky he still cleans up after dinner. I don't think I could count on much help from him with a new canine companion. As for my kids, let's get real. I can barely get them to take care of their own bodily needs and physical surroundings in an appropriate way. Do I really want to fight the go-out-and-shovel-poop battle?

I look at pictures of dogs on the shelter web site now, wistfully, in the same way I used to look at photo listings of waiting children when I felt strongly we were meant to have more children in our family. Sometimes I tell myself it's time to pee or get off the pot. I have been thinking about this ever since we bought our house. That's almost a year. A long time to think.

Katy was a good dog. But she got her name because she was such a naughty puppy. If anything was chewed, peed on, or ruined in some other way, my in-laws could be pretty certain Katy did it, so she was named Katydid. She was so funny as a young dog, super smart and charming in a very breed-specific way. I remember her playing sock tug-o-war with my husband and herding us on our walks.

This summer when we visited Alaska, my little puppy-loving Z got to know Katy in her twilight. Katy was hurting, tired, old. Z was enthusiastic, loving, silly. Katy's patience was superb. She let Z read her stories, lead her around, use her as a canine pillow. She was a good, good dog.

Run fast in doggie heaven, Katydid.


alyddall said...

If you get a dog - choose an adult dog rather than a puppy, and a breed that doesn't shed. You could likely find a smart, house broken dog through a rescue organization. I LOVE having a dog, but Cricket was also destructive as a puppy. I agree with the safety factor, though she sleeps in my room and not the kids'. I am especially grateful for her eyes and ears when Dave travels. One last - We took a trip recently and realized that our kids really do drop a lot of food at meals and other times, but Cricket does a wonderful job of "clean up".

liz said...

I second the "no puppy" nomination. Our dog chewed through five (yes FIVE) hoses, the corner of the garage, a shoe, two trees (small, but still, they were trees), and various planted flowers. I didn't know if he was going to live to adulthood. But as an adult, he was GREAT with our kids. He was ridden, poked, tugged at, hugged, kissed, you name it, he endured it. My kids love dogs, and neither has any animal allergies or phobias. He was an outdoor dog and the girls loved feeding him. He was a lab, and I would highly recommend one.

Sarah Shaw said...

I definitely agree with the "no puppy" idea. Puppies are an insane amount of work and I remember Mom standing in the middle of the living room crying because Katy had peed on the carpet again. Plus, there are so many unwanted and unloved dogs at the pound that need good families and kids to run around and play with them. Get a family-friendly breed, like a lab mix or retriever mix. And lastly, I always, always felt safe with Katy and Carmen there. In fact, I remember curling up under my pink blanket with Carmen whenever I was scared as a little girl.

Denise said...

My daughter is begging for a dog, but I'm putting my foot down (and not into a pile of poop, either). I've been suckered into cats (twice) and fish (many, many short-lived fish), and I say I'm done.

Besides, if I want to hear a dog bark all night, I can just listen to the neighbor's neglected pooch. No need to add to the cacophony.

And yet, part or me thinks a dog would be a great thing for the kids. We had dogs when I was a kid. My children should have the same experience.

But then I remember that I'm the mom now, and judging by past pet experiments, I'll be doing all the upkeep. All of my children are potty trained now, and I'm not ready to go back to doody duty!