Stop Telling Me to Get a Dog

Comments 13

I don’t want a dog.

It’s National Dog Day, so it’s probably not the most popular thing to think or say. But it’s true.

I like dogs. Most of the time. Seriously.

Sort of like people who only enjoy small children on a case-by-case basis. That’s a position I can get behind. (Giggity.)

I really do like dogs.

In fact, I DO want a dog in Bizarro Dog World™ where the things I don’t like about dog ownership aren’t true.

This is my friend’s dog, and I’m a little bit obsessed with him.

Chewie labradoodle

His name is Chewie. He’s a labradoodle. He’s smart. Friendly. Relatively well behaved (he’s a puppy, and all puppies are like: “You’re going to need to repeat that 11 more times and give me a treat before I listen. Because I’m totally a puppy. Sorry.”) Doesn’t shed, despite all that long, awesome hair. And is ridiculously cute.

I live alone when my son isn’t home. Many people have suggested I get a dog ever since I became single more than two years ago.

“You should get a dog.”

“But I don’t want a dog.”

“Why not? Don’t you like dogs? You have a good house and yard for it.”

“Of course I like dogs. What kind of person do you think I am?”

“Then what’s the problem?”

I’m glad you asked.

It turns out, I don’t live in Bizarro Dog World. Bummer.

Here’s the thing, People With Normal Brains: After I exhaust 96 percent of my daily energy making sure my son is properly cared for, and that I stay employed, the remaining 4 percent has to cover everything else, like chores and errands and cleaning and feeding myself and keeping my two low-maintenance pets alive (one very bad cat my ex-wife talked me into getting 12 years ago, and a Betta fish swimming in an old flower vase that I’m pretty sure is immortal).

When I say I have ADHD, I don’t just mean I’m a little bit forgetful or that my life feels frantic because I’m a single dad half the time.

I mean, as a matter of course, it’s not the slightest bit weird for me to experience life like regular people experience emergencies.

I am perfectly capable of loving and feeding and caring for a dog.

But I’d have to use that remaining 4 percent of my daily energy to do so, which means I’d have to start coping with narcolepsy, and honestly?—I have enough problems.

Reasons I Should Not Have a Dog

They require food and water, which isn’t a problem, but it is work.

They require attention, which wouldn’t be hard when I’m home, but I’m often not. The amount of walking and poop cleanup required to be a good dog owner would leave me passed out on sidewalks in a puddle of my own vomit that my very handsome but misbehaved dog was licking up.

They require care on vacations. You can’t leave town like you can with bad cats and immortal fish and have someone feed and water them for you. That requires planning (and money). I am a very bad planner.

They introduce things like drool, foul smells, bonus poop and pee, noise, and property damage to your life. My second grader has that covered, thank you very much.

But you know what I think the shittiest part would be?

That on average you only get about 10 years with them. Just a decade. You build a bond approaching the one you have with family. The dogs are faithful and loving and never disappoint you (in the same way a non-second-grade-aged human can), and then one day they get sick or are simply too old to carry on.

And it’s time to say goodbye.

I was talking to my friend Kevin about his lifelong experience as a dog owner.

His last dog had to be put down, and he told me he—a 40-something tough guy who is the furthest thing from wimpy—cried in the fetal position on the floor of the vet’s office and held her paw while they put her down.

I remember looking at him and saying “Yeah. I don’t need any of that in my life. I’ve got enough problems.”

I like dogs. Generally.

I really like certain dogs I know. Specifically.

And I’m guessing I’d quickly grow to love the one I’d nurture from puppyhood through his or her life.

I’m certain I’m missing out. Not unlike how I feel about adults with no children.

But in the interest of not randomly passing out on dog walks in my neighborhood.

Of not inadvertently doing a bad job caring for a beautiful living mammal.

Of not finding new ways to spend enormous amounts of money.

Of not inviting new chores and property damage and loud noises and foul smells.

Of not one day feeling crippling loss I invited by knowing the dog-lifespan math.

I think I’m gonna have to pass.

I like the idea of dog ownership. But I don’t think I like the real-world execution of it.

And I’m already so good at owning immortal fish. I figure: Why mess with a good thing?

13 thoughts on “Stop Telling Me to Get a Dog”

  1. Oh golly….I got one dog – my first dog ever, mind you – a BEAUTIFUL cavalier king charles ruby dog….AMAZING….paid a pretty penny for her too and soon discovered my son was SEVERLY allergic to her so she became an exclusively outdoor dog… and soon a depressed dog, Enter a rescue poodle as a playmate…..allergies and asthma persisted. My beautiful Ruby had to go and we ended up with this quasi-cared for poodle (I love a lot now). Then SHE became depressed. Now I have a new yorkie puppie and both dogs are happy. I get your point completely though I enjoy all my dogs immensly. The biggest problem I see is when my beloved puppies get doggie-cancer and I’m conflicted about paying thousands in medical bills cuz I’m all attached and a sucker.

    I think you’re making the right decision.

  2. You know, this is actually something I’ve thought about a fair bit before.

    I love dogs. Had one as a kid (awesome little Shitzu), and she was great. And sometimes I think back a find myself entertaining the idea of a dog.

    But I don’t want one. I recognize the work involved, and I’m not willing to do it. I’m an “all in” person, and if I can’t do it right, and provide a suitable home for the dog then it’s not fair for the dog for me to get one.

    Not sure if you intended this or not, but there are a lot of parallels to relationships. They have all sorts of good sides, but they also require effort, commitment and sacrifice.

    Sometimes I look around and it seems people only want to cherry pick the good parts and refuse to deal with or ignore the harder parts.

    Life doesn’t (or shouldn’t) work that way. You need to take the good with the bad. And if you can’t? Well, then maybe you aren’t ready for the responsibility that comes with it.

  3. Yeah, I don’t want a dog either… but I have one. I wrote a post last summer called “Why I Hate Having a Dog”, it contained some of these same points and I mentally rehash them every other weekend when I’m working multiple twelve hour shifts.
    Buuuut my kid love her & she’s good for them so she stays.
    On a side note, someone should start a dog time share system for people like us. I’d totally time share my dog.

  4. I’m laughing because I recently had to have a similar discussion with my sweet, fun and *totally* ADHD son about why it would not be such a great idea to adopt a dog.

    He thinks I’m crazy – what could NOT be great about this??? I’m giving him the list of reasons, pretty much the same as yours, but he’s convinced he’ll make it work.

    His girlfriend is all frustrated with him and she just blurts out “Oh for heavens sake Brent Lee, that will never work! YOU HAVE GOLDFISH BRAIN!”

    At which point I was kind of at a loss, because WTF is goldfish brain??

    Then my son starts to laugh and turns to me and says, “RIGHT! Yeah ma, I swear I have the memory of a goldfish. Probably not a good idea. For the dog.”

    At least he’s good-natured about it. *shrugs*

  5. Betta fish swimming in an old flower vase that I’m pretty sure is immortal
    I mean, as a matter of course, it’s not the slightest bit weird for me to experience life like regular people experience emergencies.
    Thank you for writing and making me laugh!!!
    and I agree with you, especially on this:
    Of not one day feeling crippling loss I invited by knowing the dog-lifespan math.

    I have enough heart ache, I don’t need to plan it and live it and watch it coming. Thank you very much.

  6. I had to say goodbye to a cat I had for 17 years and my dog will be 11 in February. I’m dreading it. They are expensive and annoying and wonderful, all at the same time. If you have friends who have awesome dogs, just love theirs. It’s easier.

  7. I understand, we have a double whammy in that we are full time RV’ers and also do not have the temperament to do all that is necessary to do it right. We did own birds, and enjoyed them very much, but when they died we decided not to get any animals, other than our Gorilla, Seal, and a singing Dog.

  8. Exactly. What you said (plus three extra kids drawing on the walls and leaving Thinking Putty to melt down the front of the couch.) And besides, “You’ve got your hands full.”, “”Why don’t you get a dog,” is the #1 thing I hear. Like every week.
    Perfectly written!

  9. I’m a confirmed dog lover (once had a Bernese Mtn Dog, like the tricolored one pictured. I will always have a dog because I need one.

    But you are wise and caring and really terrific to look at your life and say “I can’t” rather than saying “why not” and finding out again — the hard way — that what you say is true.

    But get in as much quality time as you can with your step-dog.

    Me, I’m off to the vet while on vacation with my dog who randomly started peeing and pooping everywhere.

    Yup. You have a point.

  10. Get a cat?

    Seriously, I am with you on dogs. Cute to visit, but not for me to own. I have decided when my cats go, that’s it for pets for a long time (they are 12 and 15 now, so probably still a long ways from that)

  11. I’m a “cat person”. I love all animals! (Except spiders. And cockroaches. And basically anything with more than four legs. Besides butterflies. I like butterflies). My roommate got a puppy when we first moved in together. It’s been two years, and my roommate now owes me over a hundred dollars worth in shoes and about twice that in furniture. Despite that this is a super polite, well behaved dog, she’s still…a dog. She HAS to be kenneled every day for her (and the apartment’s) well being. I’m fortunate that I don’t HAVE to walk her. I let her out when I get home, I let her run the yard when I’m gardening, but I don’t HAVE to do anything except enjoy the perks of a dog. My roommate gets the gruntwork. Still doesn’t negate the fact that this dumb dog is a lot of work.

    My cat and I are perfectly happy. We don’t need a dog. I refuse to own a dog for myself. So I perfectly understand your sentiments! Dogs are WORK!

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