A while ago I read a post by Josh describing exactly, exactly, how I feel about dogs. I hate them. I don't hate YOU if you love them, but I hate them. I hate that people think they're people. They're not. They're dogs. And people are more important than dogs.
Which is why we got a dog on Saturday.
Let me give you a little history. Growing up we had dogs. First there was Kelly, the Irish Setter. Kelly was A Good Girl, and even saved my life once, no joke. I lived on a country road and one day, as a toddler, I was playing in our front yard while my dad sat against a tree, reading the newspaper. In a flash, a car came speeding down the road at the exact time I began toddling out into the road. My dad jumped up and sprinted towards me but there's no way he could have made it to me in time. Kelly, however, ran to me, knocked me down, sat on me, watched the car pass, and then got up. Kelly had a downfall, though, which was that she loved to chase cars, and that downfall caused her, well, downfall. In the form of a snowplow. I still remember the night.
But life moves on and more dogs are had. I think we had one named...something like Buddy, maybe. And a super hyper beagle named Snoopy (duh) but whom we called Puppers. And then the poorly-named Kuna (that was/is my nickname for my Aunt Karen, why would we give that name to a dog?). And, of course, Cody, who would sleep outside my bedroom door any night I was home alone as a teenager, and made me feel safe. Such a good dog, that Cody (or, when we were Being Funny, Toby).
Still, dogs are gross, and our dogs were mainly Outside Dogs. Outside Dogs are in a completely different category than Inside Dogs. I haven't met, as an adult, anyone who has an Outside Dog, which may be because I live within city limits as opposed to the middle of nowhere. Outside Dogs can come inside maybe sometimes at night; definitely when it's cold. Inside Dogs tend to live like people, which, again, I can't stand. My husband grew up with Inside Dogs. So as a married person, the very first hurdle in, 'Should we have a dog?' lies in the notion that Darin and I have very different ideas of what it means to own a dog. I don't want dog hair all over everything. He doesn't care if the dog licks his face all day. It's an impasse and we haven't even bothered discussing it in years.
Back to Saturday.
My 11-year-old daughter loves animals, and that's cute. She also loves babies, but I'm not going to get her one of those. Since about her 10th birthday, though, she's been researching dogs. See, for years when my kids have asked me if we could get a dog, my answer has been, "I won't even consider it until we're done with diapers," which was my special way of delaying breaking their hearts. We've been done with diapers for quite a while, and my answer has been a solid, "No, I don't like dogs, and who do you think will be the one taking care of it? ME, that's who," with an occasional, "If you can find a dog that doesn't poop, you've got a deal."
11YO, though, she has been considerate of my feelings in her research. "Mom, I'm looking for a breed that doesn't have a high-pitched bark because I don't want you to be bothered while I'm at school," and, "Mom, this dog doesn't shed, which will help with allergies AND cleaning." Not only that, she has saved almost every penny since that 10th birthday, more than enough to adopt a dog.
Still, though, knowledge of breeds and money saved was not enough to convince me.
So what did?
When I was in D.C., I was thinking about my daughter. She is a good girl. A very good girl. She does her best to choose the right and stay out of trouble. She's eager to help and thoughtful and responsible, so responsible -- maybe more responsible than anyone else in our family, her parents included. But to go along with her desire to do what is right, she has encountered some difficulties. For instance, she is a fiercely loyal friend, but, as is wont to happen, other girls her age (and, sadly older, up to age . . . let's see . . . how old am I?) sometimes do or say things that result in my daughter's feelings getting hurt, directly or indirectly. (Am I saying that my daughter never does anything that hurts anyone else? Of course not.) She then chooses to step away, if for no other reason than to take a break, or maybe think about if having said friend(s) is worth her energy. As an introverted sister sandwiched between two extroverted and extremely social sisters, I have watched as she questions herself, wonders if she has enough friends, wonders if she should have more people around, and even, in her darker days, wonders if she's good enough as she tallies up numbers of friends. It is absolutely heartbreaking.
And there I was, in D.C., and somewhere, at some point (the details escape me), the topic of dog ownership came up and it hit me:
My daughter wasn't asking for a dog. She was asking for a friend.
And that? I can do.