SO DOGS HAVE SOULS, apparently.
The week I’m writing this a professor at the University of Colorado announced that dogs have nuanced moral systems and can distinguish right from wrong. “It says here that dogs can laugh,” my daughter Samantha sighed, reading from the article. “Mom, don’t you find that delightful?”
My daughter is a red-blooded 11-year-old tomboy who has never uttered the word “delightful” in her life. She is now on about her ninth year of using every wile in her arsenal to get us a pet, and this day she launched into a wistful recap of the month’s animal headlines. The dog that was heroically finding its long way home from the car crash that killed its master! The puppies—_puppies!_—that kept the lost toddler alive overnight in the freezing Virginia wilderness!
A homework assignment in persuasive writing refined her case. “I have wanted a dog since…well, since I found out what a dog is!” it began, unfolding purply over a ranging landscape of arguments impressively honed to our opposition. She earned an A-plus.
It’s not that I dislike animals. I have always enjoyed my friends’ pets. (Shout-outs to Shea and Kona! Theo and Charlie! Shao Mai and Claude and Cow! Love you guys!) They are soft and affable and loyal to my friends, and all of this is good.
I just really don’t want one.
About 12 years ago I progressed overnight from serially killing houseplants to becoming primary life support for a gestating human, who, once born, proceeded to show us what dependence really meant. Now my wonderful mess of a life is no crazier than any other working mother’s, and arguably much easier than that of many. But pity the poor dog who tries to find a lousy ball to fetch in it. “I have far too much respect for dogs to inflict our family upon one,” my husband says.
Okay, so maybe his antidog stance is some perverse manifestation of deep dog love—but who am I kidding. I’m antidog because I don’t want to take care of one. And as much as I tell myself and anyone who will listen that a dog’s water dish is a dangerous, dangerous apparatus, capable of burning down a Bellevue house if left to its own devices in the sun, my hair-trigger unfit-mother nerve reminds me that this is a child we didn’t even give a sibling—and now are denying a pet.
How did I become so out of sync with the zeitgeist, so shockingly un-American? Here I am in a country gone collectively gaga over the adorable First Daughters’ adorable new dog, and I can’t even summon affection for Sam’s favorite movie about the lovably mischievous Labrador Marley. Boisterous dog waking napping baby?_ Craigslist the mutt!_ Dog leaping out of moving vehicle? Drive faster! Somehow I don’t think those were the responses Marley and Me was going for.
What’s the matter with me?