I managed to distract my children when they first raised the sensitive question last year. A few weeks later the subject somehow resurfaced.
“So, tell us again, Mom – why can’t we have a puppy?”
“You’d better hurry. You’ll be late for school,” I replied.
“You can’t avoid us forever.”
“I love animals, too,” I tried to explain. “But a puppy would feel abandoned if we went on vacation and left it behind. Remember how weird Brownie the Guinea Pig acted after the Russell family watched him for us?”
“Brownie wasn’t acting weird, Mom. He was dead. Mrs. Russell thought he was a deep sleeper.”
I understand my kids’ whining all too well. I begged my own parents for a puppy. They finally gave in and purchased “Jacques,” a miniature, white poodle with an extraordinary pedigree and an even greater ego. Jacques held disdain for all ordinary folks, which included everyone except his personal Chef de Cuisine, my mother, who cooked him hamburger and rice to appease his delicate tummy. Jacques’ canine philosophy: Let Them Eat Cake, (but, actually, I’d Prefer Steak).
From the safety of his guard house/urine depository under the living room couch, Prince Jacques held doggy reign. At five months he refused to perform his duty outside during inclement weather. At seven months he christened the carpet when forced to endure dry puppy food. By the time he was one he obviously annoyed the neighborhood dogs, evident by the gaping wounds he’d slink home with, necessitating too frequent and expensive emergency vet visits.
I worshipped that temperamental tyrant, and demonstrated my everlasting devotion by feigning bathroom needs or sneaking off to watch TV at feeding, grooming or mess clean-up time. Despite lots of “Of course I’ll help” empty promises, I don’t think I honestly ever did anything to take care of that dog. There’s a faint memory involving me opening a can at mealtime. It was probably just tuna fish for my neighbor Mariena and me.
“You kids just THINK you want a puppy,” I continued. “Remember how you begged for a little brother or a sister? How you thought your lives would only be complete with a new baby to keep me so busy I’d forget to nag you about homework?”
“We still don’t understand why you were so uncooperative,” said the oldest child, aka Chief Canine Lobbyist. “Some weird excuse about how you’ll soon be pausing for men.”
“That’s menopause, honey.”
“Listen, kids. I’ve met my Mandatory Maternal Mess quota. I changed over 9,000 diapers, wiped about 375 runny noses and scrubbed at least 39 toilet training accidents. I applied action-figure band aids to around 47 invisible boo-boos, mopped up approximately 760 orange, apple and grape juice spillages and dug out a good 15 porch splinters. This is the first time in 12 years we’ve had a TV room ‘throw rug’ that wouldn’t be more appropriately called a ‘throw-up’ rug. Can you understand why I might not want a puppy now?”
“But we need something to hug and chase.”
“Put your arms around me any time you want. Just try and catch me when there’s only one chocolate brownie left.”
“Be serious, Mom.”
“Try to see this from my perspective,” I argued. “Puppies and babies are a lot alike. They’ll look you blankly in the face while expelling noxious fumes. They’ll whimper when you’re not playing with them. When you pick them up they’ll accidentally scratch you in the face with nails that, despite regular trimming, grow faster than Rapunzel’s hair.”
“They’ll slobber on your new designer blouse and will mosey around the house with sauce on their chins in front of visitors. They’ll get real excited over supermarket bags, dirty paper towels, plastic containers, blow dryer cords and any other household objects you mistakenly leave in their path. Worst yet, both puppies and babies can always be counted on to provide a pre-dawn wake-up howl after parents have had a rare, late night out.”
The kids looked dejected.
“I’m sorry, guys, but we’re not getting a puppy now and, short of the stork accidentally dropping a bundle down the chimney, we’re not getting a little baby, either.”
A few days later the kids cornered me again.
“We can sort of understand why you don’t want another baby and might not want a little puppy.”
“So how about a full grown, BIG dog, instead?”
Who says you can’t reason with your children?