My Child, My Dog
Will we ever progress from four-legged children to the two-legged variety?
"Hi, Daddy! I missed you today!"
"Hi, Baby! Were you a good girl?"
"I'm always a good girl, Daddy. And guess what! Mommy gave me a cookie!"
Cute, eh? Does it lose its cuteness when I confess that this exchange didn't take place between my husband and our daughter but, rather, my husband and our dog (with me speaking for her, of course)?
Yeah, we're THOSE people. The crazy dog owners, that is.
My husband and I have two Vizslas, littermates Jack and Diane, and they're our world. Jack spends much of his time at "boarding school" - he's trained for field trial work and spends several months each year with his handler/trainer a few states away. Diane spends most of her time on the couch, in her recliner, or in the middle of our king size bed.
The pictures we have of our dogs easily rival those that most couples in our age group have of their children: Jack standing in the trunk of my car; Jack and Diane sleeping curled up together, her head resting on top of his, in the backseat of the car; Diane wearing adorable, blue denim panties when she went into season shortly after we brought her home; A close-up shot of Jack's big, noble head; Diane looking regal in the dining room of our former home.
Oh, and the cutesy stories we love to share with others: How Diane tried to bite a porcupine and was rewarded with a snout full of quills; how Jackie can't sleep in our bed because of his insistance on checking to be sure his boy parts are still attached every 15 - 20 minutes all night long; how Diane wakes my husband at 4:30 each morning for her breakfast by smacking him in the head with a paw; the list is endless. We even refer to them as "the children."
Our family, friends, and coworkers all coo obligingly over the pictures, and laugh politely at the stories. Invariably, however, the question is asked.
"So, are you guys ever going to have REAL kids?"
At first, I feel a bit sheepish, realizing how ridiculous I must sound to sane people when I rhapsodize about my four-legged babies. Then I remember that it is something of a valid question.
Do we intend to have a human child? Absolutely. I'm 32 and my husband is 40. I hear the clock ticking and realize that I'm on the slow downward slide of fertility. Occasionally, when PMS is in full swing, I tear up over a diaper commercial, and I've informed my husband at various times that our dogs need a boy (or girl, I doubt that the dogs will be picky) to love them. But, you know how everyone says that you shouldn't wait for a "right" time to have children, because there's never a "right" time? Well, to us, the time is so not right that it is downright WRONG.
In the ten years that we've been together, we've moved six times. At present, we're living in a teeny tiny rental house with a stinky basement (Is it mold? Mildew? What's the difference, anyway? Is it why I keep getting sinus infections? How much snot can one woman produce?), two blocks away from a good full-time job that I don't love, while we look for a piece of land on which to build what I pray will become our retirement home. My husband's insurance career allows him to come home at 3:30 p.m. some days and not until 8:30 p.m. on others. I'm beginning online classes to finish my degree, and am in the fledgling stages of attempting to break into freelance writing, having just recently decided what I want to be when I grow up. I'm also dealing with a few health issues that I feel should be resolved (among them, the aforementioned snot issue) before we attempt to conceive.
Could we have a child under these conditions? Sure. To us, though, a child deserves stability, and our lifestyle just doesn't provide enough of that at this point. Besides, a 50 pound dog with sad eyes and a cold, wet nose in the center of the bed is a very effective form of birth control.
I am sometimes concerned that the time will never be less wrong for us to have a child. Being [at least] a smidgeon neurotic, I also worry about the influences of things beyond my control. What if another 9/11-style attack occurs? How would I explain something like that to a child? What if I'm not emotionally strong enough to handle the angst of the teen years? I haven't yet shared these fears with my husband to determine how he will help me to overcome them, and I know these are issues I'll never have to address with Jack and Diane. The biggest things I have to worry about with them are making sure that muddy feet are wiped before they come into the house, and avoiding their kisses on days when I have observed them eating their own poop.
I guess for now, we'll continue to shower our dogs with our love and affection, talk to them and talk about them to anyone who will listen, and let those around us worry about our sanity until the day when we're ready to bring a baby into our odd little fold . We may not be the perfect image of the stereotypical family right now, but we are, however, a happy family.
Diane just wagged her tail in agreement.