Tuesday, January 7, 2014

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Ugh... My Kids Want a Dog (Why I don't want a pet) Part II


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My Dad had a small poodle when I was growing up. We spent years trying to get that stupid dog to go outside, but despite all our efforts, it was still a fifty-fifty chance Princess would actually poop in the yard. And the majority of the time, she pooped in my bed. I shit you not! She always did it near the foot of my bed, beneath the blanket. I could never tell if she did this out of spite. I often wondered if I’d angered Princess at some point and now she felt justified in pooping in my bed. What I do know is that it drove me crazy. I can’t count how many times I crawled into bed and felt something cool and squishy between my toes.
And even if I got a dog, and I got it to poop outside, I’d still have to reach down, a bag over my hand, pick up the turd, and throw it in the dumpster. There is no way! Not going to happen!
Clean Up After Your Pet Sign: with dog poop instructions
But despite my hatred of dogs. Despite my strong feelings about them, everyone in the family is constantly hounding me (pardon the pun) to get a four-legged friend. I used to have the excuse that we lived in rentals that didn’t allow pets. This worked in Utah. It worked in Minnesota. And it worked at Knox Butte Apartments in Albany, Oregon, the first place we moved after graduate school. But ever since we bought a house, I feel like I’m holding back a train full of puppy love. It gets worse when I consider that the former owner had a dog, so the back doors already have doggy doors in them. These small doors are a constant reminder of what was is NOT in the house.
Just a few weeks ago Norah was sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor, gazing at the doggy door, her chin resting in her palms. She look sad, and when I asked her what was wrong, she said, “I’m just thinking about doggies.”

“Don’t worry about that, Norah,” I said. “Ringo the puppy is all the dog this house needs.”
I smiled down at her, thinking that what I’d said was sweet. That it would change her mood. She glared up at me. She wasn’t going to have it. Then she let out a sharp breath, something similar to what my Dad’s poodle used to do when disappointed, then she sulked across the kitchen on all fours, went through the doggy door, and into the garage.
The next day Tristan and I were in the backyard passing a soccer ball. As we were kicking the ball back and forth, he mentioned how cool it would be to have a dog out there with us. “If we had a dog, it could chase the ball while we kicked it. That would be so funny.”
He looked up at me with a huge grin, his cheeks rolled into dimples.
“Why do you keep bringing up wanting a dog?” I said. “You’re terrified of them.” I reminded him about his aunt’s dog, Hershey. “Every time we go to Aunt Melissa’s house you nearly pee your pants trying to get away from the dog. You won’t even go into their backyard unless Hershey is in the kennel.”
He looked at me for a moment, his little eyes moving side-to-side, deep in thought. Then he said, “I wouldn’t be afraid of our dog. Our dog would be nice. Not scary like other dogs.”
“What would make it different?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said with a shrug. “It would just be different.”
That was it. That was his argument, “It would just be different.” I didn’t know what to say, so I said what was on my mind. “Were not getting a dog.”
Tristan glared at me for a little while. Then he kicked the ball into the lattice along our porch, knocking it down, and went inside. 
Later that night I told Mel about what happened, and she said, “The kids want a dog. I don’t see what the big deal is. You don’t have to be an ogre about it.”
We were in our bedroom. I was sitting on the bed as Mel was changing into her pajamas.
Ogre, I thought. Really? That’s how you describe me? As a mythological lizard like curmudgeon living near a swamp. Sure, the Shrek franchise has made being an ogre a little more acceptable, but nevertheless the message was clear: Because I didn’t want a dog, my family saw me as a smelly monster. Ugh… 

“I’m not an ogre. I just don’t want a stinky dog peeing and pooping all over our new house. How would you feel if I took a dump in the living room and then expected you to clean it up? Would you still love me? Or would that be a deal breaker?”
Mel rolled her eyes.
“What about the time you had the flu and accidently crapped your pants on the sofa? I helped you clean that up.”
“That has nothing to do with it,” I said. “I’m not a dog.”
“I know,” Mel said. “That’s what makes it so sad. If you were a dog, I’d have understood.”
“If I were a dog, you’d have probably gotten rid of me,” I said.
“If you do it again, I still might.”
I didn’t have a rebuttal. We sat in silence for a while.
“People try to pretend that dogs are like people,” I said. “But they are not. They are stinky and smelly and gross. Dogs are the ogres. Not me.”
We went back and forth for a while, on the cusp of an argument, but never fully making the leap into yelling. Eventually we both went to bed, our backs to each other. And as I lay in bed, I thought about where I stood. Mel was irritated with me because I didn’t want a dog. Norah was mad at me because I didn’t want a dog. Tristan was mad at me because I didn’t want a dog. Everyone was angry with me, and yet I couldn’t think of anything that might make me want a dog. My heels were dug in deep. All I could think about was how it would ruin my life. I thought about the stains on our carpet. I thought about it barking at night. I thought about it licking my face after having intimate knowledge of where it’s tongue had been. Just thinking about a dog made my stomach turn. I didn’t understand why I was the one singled out here. Why was I the one that needed to change my ways and welcome a hairy butt sniffing dog into the family. What were they seeing that I didn’t? Norah had very limited interactions with dogs. Tristan was terrified of them. And Mel only had cats growing up. I recall eventually falling asleep feeling very picked on.

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Clint Edwards is a tutor coordinator at Oregon State University. He is also the former co-host of the Weekly Reader on KMSU and a graduate of the MFA program at Minnesota State University. His writing has been listed as notable by Best American Essays, and has been published in The Baltimore Review, and through The University of North Dakota, Boston College, Emerson College, The University of South Carolina, and Minnesota State University.