I love animals. Part of me wants to take most of the ones I see home, cuddle with them, love them.
But the reality is different.
First, I never liked caged pets. Logically I understand that most of them don’t mind and feel safe in a limited space, being well cared for otherwise. But eventually they die and I always have the same regret that I didn’t interact with them more, take them out to play or let them roam a bit. They were just vegetable-scrap disposal machines or occasional chirps reminding me a living creature was nearby. Brief moments of contact over years of captivity.
I even wish I spent more time staring at my 10-gallon aquarium of guppies. They feel like furniture most of the time, not companionship. But at least they don’t seem to mind and don’t impose for anything. It’s a net gain of comfort.
As for cats and dogs, it can be a great comfort to have them. Some you really bond with and others not as much, but you still love and care for them. I have a friend with five dogs. Two really stand out to me. I’m attracted to them as they are to me. I feel a certain guilt for saying this, but the other three are background noise. Yes, they equally trip me when I’m over and vie for attention, but I really want to interact with two of them specifically (and squish their faces). Some animals I think I would want to live with, some not, and I’m not even sure if there’s any rhyme or reason to it. I don’t even think I should trust my own judgement on such matters, as it could be an adorable or majestic superficial appearance that turns into a nightmare dynamic or vice versa.
But I always wanted a big dog. I’ve always been partial to German Shepherds, but took on a liking to Pit Bulls and Bulldogs. Borsoi and Greyhounds are pretty awesome, too. But I never HAD a big dog. I figured we’d wait until we had a farm or larger place before getting one. Not sure if our current property counts as that, but I’ve been open to the idea since we moved from the apartment.
Enter Hazel (originally named Aurora), 5-month-old Pit Bull mix. We’re fostering her from the SPCA with option to adopt. I’ve never actually had a puppy or a big dog. I never gave thought to the idea a big dog would also be a big puppy — all the energy without the cuteness and manageability of size to excuse the pains of training and potential destruction. I just feel like I can’t handle it, at least until she’s more grown.
And I feel terrible about it.
Of course I love her, like any other of God’s creatures, and would care for her if she stays with us, at least as I’m able. There are times she fulfills the dream of a big dog on my lap or napping with me. Other times it’s just too much. Mer is working with her — who says she has more potential for good behavior and other training than any other dog we will probably come across. And Christina is enamored by her. And like any dog, I deeply wish they have a good home, and worry about her having to transition to yet another family. Fostering sucks. I would never do it with a child, and I’m not sure I ever want to do it ever again with non-caged pets.
From the start it didn’t feel right (though I admit doubts about Ladybug when I first saw her and it took a few weeks to bond). Our current dog (in the academic sense), Lola, a Japanese Chin, is just there. She’s cute, is one of the reasons I dread not wearing shoes in the house, but otherwise is really low maintenance, so, as heartless as it sounds, I don’t care if she’s here or not. I try to do right with what needs to be done and hold her once in awhile, but she’s Merry’s dog. And that’s fine. It’s not that I don’t love her for what she is. I just don’t have a more than used-to-having-her-around relationship.
Hazel is, relative to other large puppies apparently, much better behaved as can be expected. She’s settling into life here to some extent, but there are still the issues of house-training (mostly there) and getting along with the cats (not so much). The worst part is about me, not her. I don’t have the fortitude to be strict with her, or the patience to assist in the training. I’m not even sure what that means and get frustrated thinking about having to learn all this in the middle of a busy life.
I feel old, not having the energy. I feel selfish, not trying hard enough. I feel like maybe my wish for a big dog wasn’t such a good idea after all. And at the same time, I feel like this might be my last chance to have a big dog and I’m blowing it. And I feel real guilt that everyone else is on the same page of wanting this to be her forever home and they may not keep her because of me.
If we don’t keep her, wIll this set the mould for future pet opportunities? Will I regret not ever having that big dog? What does this say about me to others and to myself?
The truth is that I love having pets, but I would probably be equally happy with no pets at all. I grew up with none (except goldfish) and the closest thing to having a dog was “Cocoa” who I used to play ball with through the neighbor’s chain link fence. I would love to be “grandparent” to other people’s animals, where they are happy to see me, and I am happy to see them, and I can return to a quiet home without tripping and feeding and the pain of loss at the end. But my wife has always had pets, more than most would admit. It wouldn’t be right or fair to her without a plethora of furry and feathered and finned things around. I don’t know the balance to keep us both content, but it’s probably less than we have now, at least in terms of responsibilities I feel I’m willing and able to fulfill well.
If we keep Hazel, I’ll deal with it and not have the guilt of turning away what one or two other people many already consider a family member. Maybe she’ll grow into being “my dog” in the idyllic sense, hopefully without too much stress in the journey. But right now, I’m just distracted by the process and distraught with the choice.