As soon as I sized up the situation, I knew what to do. Someone had once done the same for me.
I got a confirming nod from my husband, DC, then said to the kids, “We’ll take the dog.”
DC’s son and his wife were in a tough spot. One year ago, they had their second child. About that time they also rescued an eight-week-old puppy. Fast forward one year. The baby is starting to walk, the oldest child is 3, and the dog, Luke, weighs more than the two tots put together. His warm-hearted exuberance and his 50 (and gaining) pounds of pure canine muscle were knocking the little ones – among other things – over like bowling pins.
Attached as the parents were to this lovable galoot, he was too much for this young, two-working-parent household to manage. DC and I sensed the stress. We felt for the family and the dog.
Though Luke is not a dog I would have picked, a gate in me opened. We have two dogs, a good dog routine and no small children, so are set up to help. Plus, this was also my chance to pay a debt of kindness forward.
I flashed back 25 years. I was a new mom and had a beloved sheltie named Bonnie, who was not a fan of the baby. I kept hoping she would adjust, but one day in the kitchen, I handed my daughter, who was starting to walk, a peanut-butter cracker, and as I did, Bonnie bit her arm. Though she didn’t break the skin, she left a ring of red teeth marks and no doubt where this was heading.
Sobbing, I called my parents, who both picked up on the house landline: “Bonnie bit the baby,” I cried.
In classic fashion, my practical Army nurse mother said, “Wash it with soap and water,” while my father magnanimously said, “We’ll take the dog.”
Years later, I thanked them again for stepping in. Dad brushed it off, like it was all part of the job, and said, “That’s what families are for.”
DC and I took Luke to boot camp to see if this 13-month-old, motorized pogo stick could turn into a nice family member. Luke is learning basic manners. He’s learning how to get along with dogs he meets on walks. He’s learning to sit like a gentleman and stay, sort of, and he’s getting lots of yard exercise.
We’ve brought Peapod and Pippin out to meet their new brother, and I’ve explained to them, and to you: Homes are elastic. They flex in unexpected ways, expanding and contracting as kids, parents, siblings, grandchildren, and, yes, pets come and go.
Because, well, that’s what families – and homes – are for.
Before you open your door or heart to one, ask these questions:
- How stable is your situation? if you’re planning to get married, move, have a baby,, you may want to hold off getting a dog for now.
- Is the breed a good fit? Certain breeds (Bichons) are couch potatoes while other breeds (Border Collies) need lots of room to run.
- Will your house and routine let the dog get out enough? Can you take the dog on frequent walks? Will he have a play area or yard?
- Does your landlord or homeowner’s association allow dogs?
- Who will care for the pet when you travel?
- Can you afford it? Food, pet supplies, shots, neutering, routine care, heartworm medication, regular grooming, it all adds up.
- Are you home enough? Don’t get a dog if you work all day and often go out at night. Dogs were bred to be companions.
- Will you get training? Dogs need to learn “petiquette.” Owners need training, too.
- Are the other household members on board?
- How’s the dog’s temperament? Make sure your dog is good with people of all ages and other dogs.
Join me next week as Luke graduates from boot camp and comes home to the Happier Yellow House.
Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of five home and lifestyle books, including “Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go”.
Are you and your home ready to take in a new dog?