As anyone with kids knows, every kid wants a pet. My eldest has been asking for a pet since he could say dog. I am allergic to cats and dogs, but that doesn’t bother him in the least. We gave him a goldfish when he was four and that appeased him for awhile. Until one morning a few months later, when he was found swimming sideways with just one slow moving fin. There my husband and I got a crash course in bereavement in children – they become inconsolable, wailing, flailing creatures that shed rivers of snot all over your new Lululemon hoodie. And we learned that this is definitely not the time to ask when he was last fed.
When it became clear that Fishy could not be resuscitated, we told CJ it was time to send Fishy off to Fish Heaven, but he started shrieking when we started to tip Fishy’s odorous bowl contents into the toilet. Pierced eardrums notwithstanding, we quickly agreed more decorum was needed to properly say good-bye to CJ’s beloved 2 month old pet fish. We drove to the beach, with CJ cradling Fishy’s bowl and floating remains on his lap, giant tears periodically plopping into the cloudy water. We parked and our little procession marched sombrely out to the pier. It was a suitably overcast day, Stan said a few lovely words about Fishy’s short but beautiful life and on CJ’s command, hurled him out to the sea (where he quickly became a snack for a Seagull but I digress). My normally stoic, rough and tumble boy lived on the edge of tears for the next week or so and most definitely did not want another fish to replace Fishy.
Now CJ’s two younger brothers have joined in on the fight – they are all begging/ demanding/ cajoling/ whining/ petitioning me for a dog. Or a cat. Something they can cuddle, which eliminates snakes, birds and all rodents (thank GOD!) from the running. They don’t care that CJ and I are allergic. It seems that every other day a different kid proudly struts around the schoolyard with the cutest puppy in his arms, while the other kids go green with envy. My kids want to strut like those kids. I want my kids to be those kids too, but I can’t be that mother. I can’t. My days of handling excrement are over. Plus those puppies get big in a matter of months and they really do get less cute. Every day I see hapless moms being dragged up and down these North Shore hills, yelling at their clearly hearing-impaired doggy to “stay.” I can see that dogs are just clumsy, rambunctious, adorable, loving toddlers that never grow up. So why would I voluntarily go back to sleepless nights, toilet training, having to hurry home to let the dog out, organizing dog-sitters and a daily crotch-sniff?
Call me selfish, call me mean (my kids do) but I’ve heard enough about Marley & Me to know that your giant, drooling, hairy toddler-esque dog shouldn’t predecease you. After Fishy, I know I just couldn’t handle it.