“Ohhh! So you want a dog. Okay. You didn’t say that before.”
“Well, I guess so. Was that not clear?”
“I just kept hearing about how much Jeb wanted a dog. I never heard you actually say that you wanted one.”
Somehow the simple statement from my friend’s mouth made me feel both vulnerable and relieved. As if the secret I’d been keeping from my own self was at last revealed.
The parent of a wonderful canine companion herself, my friend was deep in the end-of-life stages with her dog. He was regal in his old age, but ailing. Throughout the conversation of “should we get a dog” over the past months, my friend had bluntly suggested, “Don’t do it.”
Now, on her back porch, her grey-haired dog curled not far from her feet, she looked across the table at me and said, “If you want a dog, then you definitely should get one.”
“Really? But you’ve been saying all of this time that I shouldn’t do it.”
“Right. But that was when I thought Jeb was the only one that wanted it. But if you want it, too, then you certainly should do it.”
As I’m recounting that afternoon conversation, I realize there is a certain absurdity in giving so much thought to a pet. To be concerning myself (and even writing about) the issue can seem petty and hyper-analytical.
When people in the world are without homes or clean water, the pet choice is a luxurious option to even consider.
But since I have the opportunity to actually have this choice, why think it to death? People around the world adopt puppies and dogs every day. It’s quite typical. If you were to ask my son, he’d tell you, “Everyone has a dog.”
So what’s with all the deliberation?
For one, any of this discussion needs to be held in the context of the fact that I tend to over think things. And part of what fuels my over thinking, are the memories of times when I didn’t think enough. Or so I tell myself. Meaning, that if I would have given more consideration to future outcomes, my choices may have been different. Basically, I don’t like disappointment, failure, or regret, and would like to avoid these feelings, if at all possible.
What I fail to realize as I’m over-analyzing something, is that disappointment, failure, and regret, are part of the messiness of life, which cannot always be avoided, and can oftentimes enrich this earth-walking experience we humans briefly have.
Twenty years ago, I was dedicated to facing fears and living from my intuition and heart. There were times when I got demolished in the process. Part of that era included me diving into loving my dog Ella. And part of that experience was me realizing the depth of commitment it took to care for a dog.
Now, at the age of 42, with a 12 year-old son begging me for a canine companion, I still want to live from my instincts and heart, but with some balanced reason.
I don’t want to be the person that oogles over a puppy, only to find myself with chewed up furniture and a hyper-active dog, running circles in a back yard full of poop piles. It seems too many people fall into the cuteness of a puppy, only to realize they don’t have the stamina to maintain the 10 – 15+ years needed to responsibly raise it.
That said, I also don’t want to avoid a potentially life-enriching experience out of fear, or painful memories from the past.
In fact, I’ve had a sense that maybe (just maybe), with twenty years of life experience behind me, a solid home life, and a supportive husband, I may have another chance at this dog thing. Maybe even a chance to do it a little differently. If I’m honest, maybe I’ve entertained the thought of having a dog, because it meant that I could redeem myself. Assuage my guilt for not having been perfect at it when I was 22.
Of course, that’s some heavy pressure to put on myself and any possible puppy. (Note to self).
But for that moment on the back porch with my friend and her aging dog, it was liberating to hear someone accept the plain truth. I did want to try again. Until the instant that she reflected those sentiments to me – “Oh, you want a dog…” – I had not been fully aware it was my heart’s desire. With my head-strong focus only outlining to Jeb all of the practical implications of a puppy, I could hide from my own feelings. Avoid my inner wish, out of fear that I would fail.
I know, I know. It’s just a dog. All of this soul-searching over a hound.
Well, that hound is Mae, and she turns 12 weeks old today. And, as with every morning that I’ve come to the computer to write in this last week she’s been with us, she is sleeping on a pillow at my feet. She is offering me, and our family, something that has yet to come into words.
We have a dog. And it feels simple, plain, and true. There is lots of love, and it feels very, very right.