A cautionary tail
"Don't do it," other mothers anxiously advised me before our family of four made the leap to become a family of five. They, like me, had husbands and children begging for a four-legged pet. "If you get a dog," moaned my friends, "then we'll have to get one, too."
Everyone knows that typically – no matter what your children or husband tell you – tending to a family pet becomes yet one more job for an already overextended mom. There may be exceptions to this rule, but I bet they are rare. The truth is, I knew all this. Nonetheless, my husband and I agreed that growing up with a family dog was an experience we wanted for our children. So Thumper came home with us just under a year ago. A seven-week-old chocolate-brown-and-white springer spaniel puppy with the saddest, happiest blue eyes I've ever seen.
What I wasn't able to predict, however, was just how much this freckled furball – with whiskers so perfectly curled they look as if they've been ironed – would influence the landscape of my home life. With my son in Grade 1 and my daughter in Grade 4, we had finally left the intensity of the toddler years behind. The main floor of our home had been reclaimed. No more primary-colour kids' toys scattered everywhere. No more Jolly Jumpers or giant Lego pieces or bouncy seats over which to trip.
But as it turned out, the arrival of Thumper spelled the end of my pristine living space.
Our family was promptly showered with every accoutrement a modern pup could ever want, including a wide array of – yes, primary-colour – stuffies, bouncy balls and chew toys. Then came the large crate (a.k.a. "Thumper's den"). He's safe when he's in his large black cage. Thankfully, so too is our carpet, which inspires head-tossing, fur-flying wolf attacks from our new pup.
Page 1 of 2More recently we've acquired a steady supply of smoked buffalo bones and bully sticks, which keep Thumper occupied after his daily walk, when I'm working from my office at home. Smelly yet necessary, these smoked and stretched bits of bull feed his intense need to chew and grind: better buffalo bones than the legs of our new harvest table, which, to our chagrin, were initially misinterpreted as a perfect doggie delicacy.
There's also the puppy-proofing. The constant poop scooping (I'll spare you the stomach-churning details). The training. The feeding. And the grooming.
As predicted, and without question, Thumper has brought significant weight to my already heavy load. So why then, when my friends ask if I regret our decision to get a dog, is my answer an automatic and resounding "absolutely not"? I suppose it's for the same, indescribable reason I blush like â€¨a new mom when people walk past me if I happen to be sunning on my front porch with Thumper sitting beside me, his nose high in the air, taking stock of the world before him. And when strangers offer compliments to this handsome dog whose nature has been described – in part because he actually looks like he's grinning all the time – as "pure happiness."
This silly mutt, it seems, completes the puzzle that is my family.
"OK then," announces one of my more determined mommy friends. â€¨
"If you don't regret getting a ‘family’ dog, I should get one. Right?"
"Wrong" is my firm reply. "Don't do it. Way too much work." She smiles at me, and I grin back.
Apparently, I'm not that convincing.
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Writer Kim Gray and her family live in Calgary.