Our daughter Eliza just turned 19 and for the first time in 18 years (she couldn’t talk the first year) she did not ask for a puppy for her birthday. Honestly, it has been a standing request for both birthday and Christmas, and every year we disappoint.
Eliza's dogged desire was not a whim. She fell for every dog she met. Then, doing her best sad puppy face, she'd plead, "Can we get a dog?" Our standard answer was "No. With four kids we've cleaned up enough poop."
Don’t get me wrong, we're OK with dogs, we just don't want the responsibility of caring for one full-time. So, when we moved into our current house 16 years ago, we thought we had it made. Our childless neighbors had a dog and we had kids. It was a perfect match, each enjoying what the other had. The arrangement worked well until their dog passed away never to be replaced.
Over the years, Eliza amassed a collection of stuffed dogs of every breed. She loved them all, but it just wasn't he same as having a real one. Her favorite movie was Lady and the Tramp and when she saw Just a Walk in the Park she decided it was her destiny not only to live in New York City like her favorite canine characters, but also to become a professional dog walker in Central Park.
To get her started on her career path, I arranged for her to walk a friend's dog as a special birthday treat, but quickly realized it wasn't about walking the dog… she wanted the companionship. We understood, but we just weren't up to the commitment.
One Christmas, my friend, whose husband is severely allergic to dogs, took me aside and told me Santa was bringing their children a puppy. I was horrified. Not because she may drive her husband out of the house and into an early grave, but because aware of his allergy I boldly told our kids we'd get a dog if our friends did. Apparently, they discovered the one tolerable breed and I was forced to quickly back peddle and changed my promise to "when they have four children and a dog we'd do the same." Ten years later, I think I'm safe with that pledge.
This year, along with not asking for a dog for her birthday, I overheard Eliza talking about her college roommate who is desperate to have a pet. Eliza mentioned how impractical it would be since not only are they forbidden in the dorms, it would cost money and it's a commitment (something college students are not known for.) I think perhaps she's grown up, but I know she hasn't given up. She'll get a dog —when the time is right.
By the way, I felt bad about "using" other people's pets until I read a story in Newsweek about a guy who rents his dog as a canine companion for $3/hour.