Weekend Wanderer: Getting a Dog Was Great for My Kids. But Was It the Best Thing for Me?

personal growth for all

I’m not a dog person. We should just get that out of the way right now.

We’ve been together in this column, you and I, for eight months. I feel like I can come clean about this.

I’m not a dog person.

This is not, apparently, some kind of genetic flaw because I managed to breed two humans who love dogs.

When one of my children became obsessed with beagles, I tried to wait it out. But kids and dogs – wow. They go together like Batman and Robin.

So I talked to my vet. The first thing he told me was to get the dog. He said a dog was the best thing I could do for my kids.

I felt like having them eat broccoli was the best thing I could do for my kids. But he’d been my vet my whole life so he was basically the grownup in the room. He would know if beagles were better than broccoli.

Beagle sitting on a child's lap.
Have you met Pete, the Beagle? He puts up with a lot.
Namely, me. And the kids.

And because he’d known me my whole life, he knew I had elderly parents. He didn’t want to be insensitive, he told me, but my parents’ days were numbered. Wouldn’t it be better for the kids to experience grief through a pet first?

Wait. So our cat wouldn’t check that box?

And please. We all know my mother will bury me. Literally, metaphorically, and everywhere in between.

Just get the dog, he told me. You won’t be sorry.

Having failed with my vet, I tried to avoid dog ownership by giving the beagle-loving kid an assignment. I told him to write a report on beagles.

He once submitted a blank math worksheet to his teacher, telling her he’d done the work in his head. I figured I’d never see that report.

I’m sure you’ve guessed the punchline. Forty-eight hours later I had a beautifully written report on beagles in my hand, referenced with both a book and the American Kennel Club website.

So, we rescued Pete, a retired hunting beagle. Before we brought Pete home, I gave him three conditions for becoming a Rank: Never pee in my house. Get along with our cat. Love my kids.

I got one of those. But hey – pee cleans up, and the cat really was the aggressor, judging by the scratch on Pete’s nose and the blood trail leading to the cat.

It’s been three years with Pete. He has outlived the cat but not, as of yet, my parents.

The day, however, is young.

As the kids mature into teenagers, Pete has become more important. Pete listens to the thoughts no one else gets to hear, the secrets too good to keep but too sensitive to risk on humans, the fears and hopes too tender for adults.

According to The New York Times, dogs don’t put adolescents into the same ugly box most adults – myself included – tend to put them. They’re willing to listen without pleading for deodorant.

And it’s socially acceptable to hug your dog. Hugging your mom is, I’ve been told, cringe-y.

Which makes dogs good for the moms of adolescents, too. Pete showers me with all the affection of a preschooler.

Sometimes, Pete loves me too much. He could be Dot Matrix in the next Spaceballs movie, thanks to his excellent Virgin Alarm. The moment I lock my bedroom door, Pete comes running, sticking to me like, well, like Robin sticks to Batman.

We’re not going to discuss that with two kids, my Virgin Alarm has obviously been on snooze for a bit.

I’m still not a dog person. But I am a Pete person. And my vet was right.

He is definitely better than broccoli.