by Anita Diamant
As a young parent, I assumed my daughter would grow up to become a dog person the way I assumed she’d grow up to be a feminist, politically progressive and glad to be Jewish. As an older parent, I realize that I was whistling in the dark. Except for the dog thing; I think that was always a safe bet.
Emilia knows that living with a dog means you are going to be greeted at the door with an outpouring of unconditional love. Every. Single. Day.
Dogs satisfy the insatiable human need for affection and connection and touch. Dogs never walk away from petting, patting, scratching or stroking. Even when you’ve had enough, a dog will put his head in your lap and look up (eyes wet with adoration) for more. Living without a dog dooms you to severe tactile deprivation.
But I’m not sure that having a dog prepares you for parenthood. It drives me nuts when people look at my Schnauzer and say, “Aww, he’s your baby.” Or “Having a dog is like having a kid; too much responsibility.”
I think, “Are you stupid?”
But I say, “It’s not the same.”
Dogs are much easier. They are always in a good mood. They do not hold grudges. They eat what you feed them. They forgive and forget. Whereas your dog makes you feel important and worthy, your children teach you humility and awe.
Sons and daughters inspire tenderness and ferocity; they are the source of the greatest joys and the worst fears. Mom (or Dad) is only as happy as her happiest kid. The highs are the highest, the lows are Hell. (Capital “h” intended.)
I’ve heard many people say they won’t have dogs because it’s too hard when they die. And it’s true that getting a puppy means that you will have to bury him someday, and mourn. If you’re lucky, that is; if he doesn’t run away or get hit by a car, or if you don’t die first. I’m just saying…
I’m sure Emilia didn’t mean for me to get serious here, but maybe the greatest lesson you learn from growing up with a dog is that the fear of grief is a terrible reason to avoid loving someone — whether they come with a waggley tail or two legs and a human heart.