Its that time. My kids want a dog. They see the squirming puppies with their sagging pantyhose skin at the park and the universal kid imperative sets in. "We'll feed it and walk it and you'll never have to do anything, we'll do everything!" they plead together, finishing each other's sentences.
I was a kid. I had a dog and I loved her. She was an English Setter named Nina. I was ten, my parents were divorced, I was separated from my only sister, living as an only child, lonely. Nina and I were like lovers. We shared a bed. I didn't care that her paws were muddy, or that she would lay across my legs like a tourniquet at night. It didn't matter that her giant lips lay gleaming stripes of drool across my pants leg, and pillow, and sofa cushions and even occasionally hanging from windowsills. I didn't mind the farting. I didn't notice that her snout, bred for birding into a graceful point, was narrow enough to actually lesson the capacity of her brain pan, causing acute and un-trainable dumbness. As a breed English Setters will track a bird for seventy-five miles before coming to and wondering where the hell everyone has gone. We could never let her off the leash like we could our Chocolate Lab, who would trot along devotedly at your side for as long as you'd have her.
I get it about dogs. And that's why I don't, with every ounce of god given energy I have left, want one. We all know that the kids wont do "everything". Realistically they'll do maybe a little something, for about six days, and then it will be me. I wouldn't mind throwing some kibble into a bowl, or pulling burrs out of its matted hair. I wouldn't mind wiping its paws with an old towel each and every time the thing catches the scent of squirrel outside, then realizes its fucking cold and wants immediately to come back in. I could tolerate the snoring and the farting. I could endure the hair deposits on my couch. But what I simply cannot suffer, is another living creature needing me.
With young children the maintenance list is long: The bathing, the ponytails, the laundry. The lunch packing, note signing, and bus passes. The vomit clean up, the itchy bum, the enflamed vagina. The lice checks, homework help and high cabinet reaching. The worry, the lessons, the guilt. The squabble management, mean girl counseling, moods and meal prep. The wanted things they cannot have, the stuff they need they do not want. The flying Lego, the falls from trees, the bent back fingernail, the running with sticks. The questions, the many questions. Nutritional hoaxing, fight provoking, one more book, a few more minutes, just one more thing. Can I sleep in your bed? He just hit me in the head. You promised, you said. The snacks, the endless snacks. Sewing on patches, matching up socks, bleaching out the stanky thermal lunch bag. Pumping up tires, vacuuming crumbs, scrubbing stains, rinsing out the conditioner. Chapstick lips, lotion hands, zipping coats, tying shoes. Haircuts, throat cultures, cavities. Running the lines, learning the songs, making the costumes. Play dates, birthdays, holidays, thank you cards. Can you staple this? Where's the tape? I don't have any socks. Reminding them to flush, to wipe, to floss, to toss the laundry in the bin, to clear the plate, to lead with love. Looking for the other glove, the other shoe, the library book, the tedious homework folder. Cutting fruit, pouring milk, remembering to buy the syrup. She likes ketchup, he does not. The mac and cheese that's shells, not tubes. Closing the window, turning out the light, turning up the heat, leaving the hall light on. A lap that's never empty, a heart that's always full, a fridge that's always sticky.
If a dog were following me room to room, with its desperate tail wagging out its need for companionship, pressing its snout into my crotch for love, placing its sweet face on my thigh leaving behind a shimmering rope of drool, I can tell you now, I'd have dog hide boots by autumn. I'm sorry Dog. I'm sorry kids. Your mother loves you. Now fuck off.