Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Dog Situation

In telling folks about my recent anxiety-ridden dog dream, I’ve garnered reactions of two general themes:

  1. “Ooh, get a dog - you’ll love it!”
  2. “Uh, maybe you shouldn’t get a dog.”

I also received the rare, “JG should really stop hassling you,” which I appreciate. Both of you have my hearty thanks.

While we agree on big issues – religion, politics, finance – we squabble about minor items that we view as integral to our lives. For example, JG squeezes the middle of the toothpaste tube, mangling it, but I go for the bottom and smooth it out. When we first got married, we had separate toothpastes because we just couldn’t stand the other’s preference. I’m proud to say that we now share a tube and I only smooth it out once a week or so. That’s what they call progress.

Dog ownership is one of these small, yet all-important issues and we come from completely different schools of thought:

  • JG:
    - Loves dogs
    - Stops to pet passing dogs and chats up the owners
    - Believes strongly in adopting rescue dogs, not buying from a breeder
    - Has always had a dog
  • RA:
    - Is afraid of dogs
    - Hides behind JG when dogs approach and avoids touching them
    - Wants to run away when a dog is off its leash
    - Has never had a pet of any kind

Pragmatically speaking, I feel like a dog is a big step up the pet hierarchy, since I have zero ownership experience. I can’t help but view a dog as a new set of chores rather than a nice companion. Here ends the logic.

When I was little, I “had a bad dog experience,” as I usually say. I was over at a friend’s house and their (gigantic) German shepherd put its paws on my (tiny, four-year-old) shoulders. I was face-to-face with a wolf-like animal and I vividly remember being paralyzed with fear as the (savage, toothy) dog stared me in the face. When I see a big dog now, I become that frightened pre-schooler again. I understand intellectually that the dog was “being friendly,” to employ a phrase so often used by trusting owners, but that feeling of panic and allover lack of safety was firmly impressed on my four-year-old consciousness. My hands have started shaking even as I type this memory. It is into this mindset that JG wants to introduce a dog.

Granted, he doesn’t want a German shepherd, thank goodness. JG prefers smaller dogs (20 pounds or so) just in case he might have to subdue it for whatever reason. He understands my fear, but only to a certain degree because he can empathize with dogs, never having had a negative experience with them. Even though the ideal situation for me would be to simply not get a dog, I know that JG would be pining for one in the back of his mind. So, like all of the marriage books recommend, we compromise, however begrudgingly.

I’ve asked for and JG has agreed to a few conditions for getting a dog:

  1. JG has finished his master’s degree.
  2. We have enough money to replace the carpet in the entire house.
  3. The dog is cute, quiet, and small; non-shedding would be a plus.
  4. I am open to loving the dog and I don’t hide it just to prove a point.
  5. JG does not gloat when I inevitably love the dog.

Under these criteria, we’ll probably get a dog sometime during 2009. By then, I expect to be fully resigned to the idea and maybe even excited. From what I’ve seen on Animal Planet, I think the West Highland Terrier is the cutest (per Item #3). Luckily enough, there’s a Westie rescue group right near us, so we’ll see if we qualify for ownership when the time comes.

Anyway, we’re kind of in a holding pattern while my brain catches up to the plan and JG does his best to refrain from saying things like, “Wouldn’t it be cute if the dog was snuggling up to you right now?” I usually shudder and shake my head. In the meantime, he is working through his master’s program and we’re having fun dreaming up dog names. JG is gunning for a famous mathematician and I’m combing through my literary favorites. Just how nerdy can this dog be? Only time will tell.


alyndabear said...

I can understand the traumatic experience having a big impact on you. And you're right; it's hard to empathise when it hasn't happened to you. As for small, loving dogs, I suggest a chihuahua, long haired. They rarely shed, are beautiful and friendly, and train really easily.

(Of course I'm biased, having two.)

It's funny - I've grown up with dogs since I was a baby, so I adore them and can't wait to get a nice big lab when I move out. Jason? Has never had a pet, and has no idea why the fascination is there.

L Sass said...

While a dog lover myself, I do agree that non dog lovers should not be forced to love dogs. That said, if you get a small, smart dog and train it well, it probably will never evoke your bad memories.

AS's parents have two Peke-a-Poos and they are adorable, smart (they do tricks--easily trained), and don't shed! Also, did I mention that they are adorable?

janet said...

I have never owned a dog and don't particularly long for one. Husband would have a menagerie if I let him. I want to move to Colorado really badly, so I just keep promising him that if we move there I'll get him a puppy.

Aimee said...

I hate that "just being friendly" thing. We always seem to come across a person with their dog NOT on a leash - who comes over to our dog and either sniffs or tries to bully him (and he's not small). When we say, Uh, hello!? Leash! They say, "oh he's fine" Uh, yeah, and what would you say if my dog was off a leash and got in the face of your kid? grrr.

oh sorry! Hi! I'm new here. :) Dogs are a lot of work - definitely make a deal with JG that he is in charge of the care. A small, smart, trained dog would be a good compromise I'd say. :)

Good luck!