CJ Kaplan loves dogs. He just doesn’t want one.
I can almost taste the freedom.
My youngest of three children starts kindergarten this fall, which will free up our work life. My oldest child is a certified babysitter, which will free up our social life. On weekend mornings, all three children make their way downstairs and fix themselves some breakfast. The older two children help the youngest and nobody bothers us until 8:30 or 9am
(Hey, new parents. Do you remember what it was like to sleep until 9am? Well, let me remind you. It’s freakin’ fantastic!)
And yet, the first thing people ask me when I tell them about all these rediscovered liberties is a question that still baffles me every time I hear it
When are you going to get a dog?
The short answer is never.
The long answer is a bit more complicated. Once upon a time, my wife and I planned on having two dogs. One was going to be some sort of Lab mix and the other was going to be a rescue greyhound. We even had names picked out: Fenway and Newman. (Seinfeld was big at the time and we thought it would be fun to come home everyday and say, “Hello…Newman!” Clearly, we were living in the moment.)
Then, we started having children and suddenly the thought of owning one dog, let alone two, seemed overwhelming. There were diapers and 2am feedings and temper tantrums (ours included) that kept us busy enough without having to contend with the needs of another family member who drooled and wasn’t housebroken. So, we put our plans to become pet owners on hold, filling the void with a string of “rescue goldfish” whom we saved from the feeder tanks of the local pet store so they could spend their ephemeral days on this earth in round, glass bowls filled with colorful rocks.
As the years went by, I started to realize that I didn’t mind not having a dog. In fact, I kind of liked it. My feelings were confirmed each day at sunrise when I looked out the window and saw the conga line of neighbors traipsing up and down the sidewalk. In the freezing depths of February and the sweltering heat of August, these people trailed behind leashes with plastic bags draped over their hands anxiously waiting for their canines to complete the digestion process
I noticed that some people carried these little gift sacks with them long after the task was finished. Some even walked their children to school with the bags swinging back and forth like some sort of bizarre accessory. There were even those who favored clear plastic bags as if they were proud of their dog’s achievement and expected some sort of compliment from passersby.
“Kudos, Jane. I can see Fido is eating well.”
After a while, I became staunchly anti-dog. One after another, my friends succumbed to the pressures of their wives and children and brought a puppy into their homes. All I heard was how the dog tore up the couch or ruined the rug or destroyed several pairs of shoes. Or how they had to schedule their evenings and weekends and travel plans around the dog. Still, they pressed me to join them in canine ownership. In my head, their entreaties translated to: Hey, CJ. You seem far too happy and relaxed. Get a dog and be miserable like us.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not against dogs as a species. In fact, I grew up with big hunks of dogs called Great Pyrenees. For those unfamiliar with the breed, Pyrenees resemble Newfoundlands in both size and looks, except they’re covered with fluffy, white fur. Supposedly, Pyrenees are prized for their bravery and cleverness in fighting off bears who threaten the flocks of sheep in the mountains of France and Spain. Ours, however, failed to keep woodchucks out of the garden and routinely locked themselves in the bathroom. Despite their oafishness, they were gentle, constant companions and I was glad to have them around.
So, I do love dogs. I just don’t want one.
Every so often, my children will see a puppy and begin to clamor for one of their own. So, the next cold or rainy morning I’ll wake them up very early and bring them over to the window.
“See those people,” I say, pointing to the folks with the plastic bags filing through the street. “If we get a dog, that won’t be me. That’ll be you.”
“Oh,” they reply. “Um … can we get another goldfish?”
Image of cute puppy courtesy of Shutterstock