My husband and I are cat people, but our daughters failed to get the memo. Despite a menagerie of two felines and an assortment of rodents, the lobbying for a dog began in earnest when Emma, our eldest, was in second grade. In between constant replays of “Homeward Bound” and “Milo and Otis,” Emma vowed to take care of all things puppy if only we would grant her wish. She even promised to pick up poop.
We’re bad parents: We said no. So Emma brought out the heavy artillery: Begging. Whining. Pitching fits. After a solid year of this, our firm “no” turned squishy. Not only did we fail to hold the canine line, we also failed Parenting 101 by caving in the face of her atrocious behavior (unsurprisingly, this soon became our m.o. for dog-rearing as well).
Of course, I was the weak link. If it had been up to my husband, we never would have accepted even one of those “free” goldfish foisted upon families at school carnivals. But after Emma went to work on me, I went to work on Jonathan. On a long, romantic hike I outlined why we should overthrow reason and do something crazy, like get Emma a dog for her ninth birthday. “Besides,” I concluded my pitch, “Maybe we could surprise ourselves and let in new love.”
Jonathan, who pays attention to research saying that marriages fare best when husbands agree with their wives, knew he was doomed. But at least the birthday girl was thrilled with the promise of a puppy as soon as we got back from our summer vacation.
Upon our return, we headed straight to the Humane Society. Emma was in heaven when she saw their brand new litter. Who knew that Rottweiler-Pit Bull puppies could be so cute? Still, it was not the mix I had in mind, even though Emma saw no need to look any further. This time, I did not cave, resolutely removing my screaming, betrayed child from the premises while simultaneously saving my marriage.
Fortunately, the next day there was an ad in our local paper for a litter in a nearby town. We knew we’d found our puppy as the mellowest little black-and-white guy yawned and waggled his tail. Thus Button entered our lives and our hearts.
Emma and her younger sister, Ally, were enthralled as Button waddled up and down the stairs after them. They were less enchanted by his needle-like puppy teeth, and spent Day Two climbing into the lower branches of a tree to avoid his nipping enthusiasm. Many days thereafter they ignored him completely.
In his intemperate youth, Button chewed through one sofa, several shoes, and two pairs of Jonathan’s glasses. Neither girl ever picked up any poop.
But one promise was kept: We could, after all, let in new love.
Button lived to a ripe old age. He had a great life, a great death, and we miss him. He was the perfect dog for our imperfect family. How have you handled kids and pets?