What did I know about raising a dog? I grew up with a turtle.
The turtle, which for some reason that escapes memory was called Oscar, lasted two days. Its successor, creatively dubbed Oscar 2, vanished on day three only to be rediscovered a room away and under the television. Apparently, as far as my mom was concerned, my sister and I had used up our pet quota. Never again did we have a pet – of any kind.
Years later when I married and had my first child, I imagined the picture-perfect family – one with a white picket fence and a dog in the yard.
“Don’t do it,” my mother-in-law warned. “Dogs are like having another child – worse.” Despite her experience-laced comments, I wasn’t about to let her prove me wrong. I could do this. Seriously, how hard could it be to own a dog?
I never considered that our child was only one-and-a-half – a full-fledged, energetic, curious toddler. Or that we had just built a house on a plot of land that was thick and rich in lush mud. Or that it was mid-December – glacially cold and two hectic weeks before Christmas. Or that even the breeder suggested we get an adult dog and not a puppy given the fact that we both worked and had a small child. What did she know? She couldn’t even control the puppy’s grandfather – long past infantile cuteness – who chumped on a glass Christmas ornament while we were signing the papers. Who understood DNA back then?
So we did it. We bought a big, whopping golden retriever puppy with paws the size of sandwich plates. Did you know a puppy’s paw is an indicator of its growth potential?
It pains me even to this day to admit our getting a puppy at that point in our lives was a mistake. But it was. Maggie ate everything in sight – except dog food. Gone were the adorable porcelain salt and pepper shakers someone sent as a Christmas present. And the $22 filet – styrafoam, plastic and all – that we were about to put on the grill. She pooped indiscriminately – the muddy backyard, dining room carpet – no difference. She competed with my daughter for our attention. All day in a crate while my husband and I both worked became her bedtime. All night in the house while my husband I both slept became her daytime.
Surrendering, we advertised for a couple without small children and who had access to lots of ground for roaming. They could have pure-bred Maggie for free. They came. She went. I was horribly sad. Two years later I bought my kids Ralph.
He was a red eared slider. A turtle.