A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in my neighbour’s dining room performing a community service: neither she nor her husband drink red wine, so when they have some I drink it. Anyway, we were talking about pets. They’re planning to get one; we’re not.
At least, I don’t think we are.
My kids think we’re going to get a dog when they’re ten. We’ve been telling them this since they were three. It is one of my favourite parenting strategies: I tell my children something just so they shut up and then hope like hell they forget what I said.
They still remember. At least once a week, one of them says something like, “What should we name our dog?” or “How long until we’re ten?”
It’s not that I’m anti-dog. I loved my childhood mutts, Caesar and Rebel; it’s just that they were farm dogs, which meant that they didn’t step a paw in the house, we didn’t have to walk them, and we didn’t own a leash. Essentially the dogs took care of themselves and once a week I’d pet them.
Raising a dog in the suburbs is another matter. I still remember house-training my twins; I can’t cope with one more mammal who can’t use a toilet or cook.
As I babbled about all this to my neighbour, she poured me a second glass. “Have you taken the kids to the pet store?” she asked. “You know, to play with the animals.”
I took a sip of my wine. “They have animals there?” I asked.
She paused, taking her time to refill her own glass with Sauvignon Blanc. “What did you think they sold?”
I could tell she was reining in the sarcasm.
“Dog food? Leashes?”
Who knew they had animals there.
So on Sunday, needing an activity before the kids returned to school on Monday for Journal Day, I drove five minutes to the pet store.
I can confirm that Petland does indeed have live animals. The kids and I watched a bird squawk, pet a puppy that looked like a mop, and explored the aquarium section.
“Can we get a fish?” William asked.
“Why not?” said Vivian.
“Because I can’t even keep a plant alive.”
“We’ll take care of it.”
And then I saw it. The writing on the wall. Literally.
I laughed. The image of me returning with a dead fish, ½ cup of fishbowl water, and a receipt was too vivid.
“Let’s go,” I said.
And out we skipped, empty handed.
* * *
Any strong opinions for-or-against pets out there?