There’s a new guy in my life. We started living together 2 weeks ago attempting to get used to each other day by day. We’re really quite different. He’s happy and giddy every morning, me, maybe two out of seven. He doesn’t mind mess, happy to leave his things everywhere, not me. I start making my bed before we're even out of it. I need alone time and he craves company. I use a bathroom regularly he doesn’t feel the need. And so, we are learning to accept each other.
Didn’t have a baby. Didn’t take in a border or leave my husband for another man. We got a dog. Archie is an 8 lb Labradoodle puppy (Labrador/poodle mix for us non-dog types). Somehow, despite my reluctance and aversion to living with anything other than humans, in a moment of weakness I succumbed. Why? I don’t know still trying to figure that one out.
My husband grew up with a dog so he could easily rattle off the benefits; unconditional love, teachable moments and responsibility for our 10 year boys, companionship and safety for the three of us when he travels and an impetus to get our family outside walking, hiking, and playing in the park again. My boys, well, they just really wanted one. Truthfully, one was horrifically afraid of dogs until a few years ago and then something just clicked. He began to love everything dog. Researched breeds, sought neighborhood dogs to play with, and I think convinced his brother to do the same. It worked, and so began their 4-year quest to convince me, their only barrier and failed dog owner (a bad 3 week experiment before we had kids that resulted in me driving the dog back to the breeder in a snow storm because I didn’t want him anymore) to change her mind.
It wasn’t easy but they did it. Maybe the fact that we never gave them a younger sibling, or that my husband never even got to say good-bye to that other dog we had, but on the boys 9th birthday I threw them a bone (literally) and told them a dog was theirs. And so after waiting patiently for 8 months for the right breeder, timing (not winter!) and litter (we got to pick the parents), Archie was ours. The first few days I spent wondering just how much it was going to cost me to buy my way out of this … new computer, new bike, new anything! The mess, the responsibility, the cost, plumeting productivity and sleep deprivation alone were reason enough to shut it down immediately before anyone got hurt. Don’t I do enough for my family that I don’t need another “to do”? Aren’t our lives busy enough without worrying about feeding a dog? Don’t we travel? A lot?
The answers are all unequivocally “yes”. But 3 weeks later, I am slowly (think molasses) beginning to come around. Archie has become a bit of a celebrity around our neighborhood, probably because he looks a bit like a stuffed animal and naturally makes people smile (although personally, I never ever noticed one person’s dog before I had one). One older woman actually took him for a ride on her motorized wheel chair. She laughed and laughed and it made my heart melt. And so because of that, we have met so many new people, chat with our neighbors more, gaggles of kids come over to say hi at school, our boys are in the backyard playing more than ever, and countless laughter from the four of us over what Archie does, the way he sleeps, or looks at us and amazing moments of tenderness as our boys learn to take care of something other than themselves. Training him I see, will be a bit of an ongoing family project but everyone is doing their best to do their share of the work. They are all terrified just enough to know that this won’t work any other way (if I can return a dog once, I can do it twice).
So, as I sit here writing my column with Archie sleeping under my chair, I am proud that I am challenging myself enough to do something that was important for everyone else in my family and way out of my comfort zone. Refreshing not to be the downer, the reminder of why it won’t work, the naysayer again, and just to simply take that chance. That having a dog might actually add more love to our family instead of just more work. How many other things in my life could I appy the same learning and approach? Probably many.
Believe me, I am a long way away from being a “dog person”, I will probably always check my house obsessively to see if it “smells” like dog, cringe when I need to pick up poop or worse, vomit, and moan when I need to get out of bed early to walk him, but if Archie keeps smiling and loving me the way he does, no matter what, well, he just might be able to teach this old dog a “new trick” or two.
Anything your family is trying to get you to do?
Have you ever given in and done it? What made you do it? How did it work out?