By Katy Killilea
When Bo Obama humped the President’s leg, I knew we were ready for a pet. My six-year-old loves dogs so much, he practically is a dog–springy, gregarious, often rolling around on the ground, and not noticing when his long messy hair dips into the milky dregs in his cereal bowl. My eight-year-old loves stuffed animals so much, he designs and sews his own and treats each one with tender care, although at the bus stop he’s aloof, holes in jeans, practically spitting tobacco juice as he gives a small wave and climbs into his bus. I felt that in the case of my younger son, a dog might be a soul mate. And that for my older son, a pet might provide an outlet for his tenderness while he moves inexorably toward the publicly macho. Also, both boys had been begging for a dog for at least two years. I realized that if Michelle and Barack could do it, so could we. And so we got our puppy: Butter.
It feels like the right choice. Here are a few things I’m glad I knew in advance. They might seem like no-brainers, but all were news to me:
1. If your family gets a puppy, the adults can count on doing the walking, feeding, grooming, and poop handling. Kids might adhere to the responsibilities you give them, but the puppy of course will need more than sporadic care.
2. Puppy mills are not just inhumane, they create psychotic puppies who have learned, against their instinct, to poop in cages. A rescue dog seemed at first preferable–in terms of both karma and expense. But as we researched dogs, it seemed a puppy bred for traits that we wanted would be easier for us as first-time puppy people. A puppy from a reputable breeder is likely to be a much nicer animal than one you find at a pet store.
3. Friends who have raised puppies are the best resources. People with dogs are more than willing to share their experience, and are more evangelical about dogs than Le Creuset users are about pans. Follow the advice of friends with dogs you like being around.
4. Every kind of dog has a downside, so pick a dog with a downside that doesn’t matter much to you (shedding, drooling, demanding to be carried around in a metallic gold handbag.)
5. The dog itself might or might not cost a chunk of change, but the fence will for sure.
6. Great websites for dog research: Animal Planet Dog Guide, My Smart Puppy,Â Pet Finder,Â Bruce Fogle (a veterinarian who has written a slew of books about pet dogs), Plaid & Stripe (the website of an adorable–but not foofy–pet boutique in Wayland Square. Go in and get great advice from a real person!).
7. A puppy will make you into a crazy dog person who thinks everyone will want to see pictures of your pet.
Here’s what I noticed immediately after Butter moved in: older son complaining that the puppy was eating into his football-with-dad time, and wiping his hands on his pants after petting Butter during a moment of forced affection. While standing around, watching Butter sniff around in dead leaves, he noted, “Having a dog is kind of boring.”Â Meanwhile, younger son was building close rapport with Butter by chasing, taunting, and offering spontaneous squeezes. Butter, of course, is excited and happy whenever his playmate is around, and is, bycomparison, fairly indifferent to the playmate’s older brother.
I didn’t anticipate how differently the boys would respond to having a pet. And I didn’t anticipate how much I would love having a dog in my life. Would you like to see some more pictures?