I did an interview yesterday for the podcast Weird Work. Host Sam Balter and I covered a lot of ground about me, NeedAMom, general thoughts on parenting, strange requests and more. (I’ll post a link when it’s live) but toward the end, he wanted to ask my advice on something.
“Should my wife and I get a dog?”
People who know me know that I am unabashedly pro-dog. Starting in 1974 with my first NYC dog Grover (who came from the NYC ASPCA and went on to a starring role in the Broadway production of OH, CALCUTTA) and since then four shar pei (Santa Fe, Wilson and currently Keaton and Addison) plus one adorable lab/beagle mix Licorice who, at the time of her death, had single pawedly brought home about 120 tennis balls, dogs have been part of my daily life and informed every thing I do.
I have suggested that some clients get a dog. I believe that if you own a dog and take the responsibility seriously, life will not just be about you anymore. It lessens self-involvement and navel-gazing offering a wider perspective and new experiences.
Sad? Lonely? Depressed?
A dog can help with these things. All dogs make their owners laugh and smile. Dogs are known as companion animals. They want to be with you. You have to go out at least two or three times a day (don’t give me that wee-wee pad crap). No matter the weather. You have to take a walk and engage with the world. Quit binge-watching “Jessica Jones” for at least a half hour. And, guess what, you’ll meet and talk with other people especially other dog owners if you live near a park or dog run. Every dog owner I’ve ever met wants to talk about his/her dog(s). Friendships and social engagement often ensue.
But don’t get a dog on a whim. Notice that word “responsibility” above. No question that being a good dog owner is a serious job. Your dog will need exercise, the right food, vet appointments and vaccines, baths (and in the case of shar pei, endless ear cleaning and skin care), nail trims, grooming, pet insurance (please budget in pet insurance), substitute care if you are busy or away from home, training (please, please train your dog; what’s cute in a puppy is obnoxious and frightening in an adult dog) and for God’s sake, get your dog fixed unless you plan on breeding it.
Most of all your dog will need you. And it’s not just quality time, it’s quantity, too. Dogs are pack animals. They need their pack with them. Sure, you can leave some dogs for 6-8 hours a day once they are trained and secure. But no longer. Some dogs will need to see a human and go out more often. That’s why there are these people called dog walkers. Budget that in.
In return, you’ll learn from your dog what I’ve learned from all of mine. How to give love expecting nothing in return and how to receive love wholeheartedly. You’ll also learn something else. Dogs inevitably die before their owners. You will grieve, possibly very, very deeply.
That is the price of love and is a price worth paying.
I think Sam and his wife got a pug. Which makes me smile.