I’m acquainted with a woman who loves children. She loves them so much she’s chosen a career as a first-grade teacher. She gets together with her nieces and nephews on the weekends and takes them on outings–to parties, to movies, to the zoo. Sometimes she just hangs out with them, and listens to them regale her with their childish tales. She’s available for babysitting on many evenings–and is more than happy to do it too. But my friend is also childless. What surprises many, including me, is that she’s childless by choice. As she told me, she loves kids but was just never interested in taking on the responsibility of raising one. As she puts it, “I enjoy kids immensely, but I can always hand them back to their parents when they get cranky or I’ve had enough. I’m afraid if I had children of my own, I’d stop liking them as much as I do.” Child-free women have the reputation of being child-haters, but this isn’t always (or even usually) the case. Some, like my friend, are even huge fans of kids.
I’m the same way about dogs. I adore dogs. I think they’re cute, hilarious, sweet, loyal, and interesting. I always stop to pet dogs (if they are friendly), I watch videos of dogs, I read stories about dogs, and I have a job where I frequently encounter dogs and my interactions with them are one of the job’s high points. But I don’t have a dog and don’t want one either.
Although dogs are awesome, they are also a lot of work–work I don’t have the time or inclination to take on. They require attention–lots more than a cat, and they are expensive. If you acquire a puppy, you must have the time to train it. You can’t just leave it alone all day while you go to work or do other things. You have to take it out when you’d rather be sleeping or watching TV, and you have to devote time to socializing it. Even if you acquire an older dog who’s already housetrained and socialized, you have to give it attention and play with it so it doesn’t develop behavior problems. You have to walk it and take it to the vet. Like a child, you are stuck with that dog for life.
Some people get a puppy and then callously drop it off at the pound when they realize how much work it’s going to be. I think that’s plain wrong. Like children, dogs need to feel securely attached to their people, and dogs that are abandoned or rejected often find it difficult to become attached to a new set of owners (if they aren’t euthanized first). I think if you agree to adopt a dog, it’s a lifetime commitment. Sure, there may be some situations where you can’t keep a dog (a particular dog may turn out to be a “bad fit” for a particular owner, or the dog has unforeseen behavioral problems that cannot be resolved), but in most cases, I think the decision to get a dog just wasn’t thought through ahead of time. Puppies are irresistible. People see a puppy and think, “I must have it!” without considering that puppy won’t always be a puppy and that they are making a 10+ year commitment to another living thing.
I’ve had several dogs in my life and I’ve loved them all. My last dog was a handsome lab mix named Dexter and he was as sweet and good and loyal as they come. Like most dogs, Dexter was very social. He required a lot of attention and would whine and whimper when he wasn’t getting it. When my daughter moved out last year, she wanted to take Dexter with her. I was a little sad to see him go, but I also knew she would pay more attention to him than I ever had, so I agreed to part with him. I can still see Dexter whenever I want, just by taking a short car ride. But I’m not responsible for him anymore and that’s fine with me.
Sometimes, especially after playing with or interacting with a particularly adorable dog, I’m tempted to go to the shelter and pick out a dog for myself. But I know I wouldn’t want the commitment. I love dogs but also like to be able to “hand them back to their person” when I’ve had my fill. I’ll stick with my cats for now. They’re all the “dog” I need.
Unless…someone gives me a Corgi puppy. Then all bets are off. OMG. I would NOT be able to say “no” to a Corgi puppy.