Our kids, like most, have always wanted pets.
We had a little Havanese pup, Tux, for a while when the kids were younger. Though Alex took great care of Tux on the weeks that she was with us and loved him dearly, I admittedly was a rather negligent fur mamma at the time.
I remember the Christmas Eve when we first had Tux. I was sitting in the basement in the middle of the night with tears pouring down my face,
feeling overwhelmed by a baby who was up every hour wanting to nurse, a pile of presents that still needed to be wrapped, and a puppy that I was having trouble house-training. That pretty much sums up my inadequacies around being a dog owner at that stage.
After our time with Tux ended, we went pet-free for many years much to the kids’ dismay. I was pretty certain George was allergic to animal hair at the time and I just didn’t have the fortitude to handle one more complicating factor in my life.
Though we were very anti-even-entertaining-the-idea-of-getting-another-dog at that time, I felt guilty about not providing my kids with more experiences around pets. Dan, never having had pets, wasn’t bothered but I had grown up with rabbits, cats, dogs, hamsters, fish, you name it. Living surrounded by animals had enriched my life and I wanted my kids to experience the love, fun, and life lessons that come with having a pet.
One year, for Olivia’s birthday, we surprised her with a giant tropical fish tank that I bought from my hair stylist at the time. He and his partner were going through a ‘tropical fish’ phase, and over the hours when my hair was being cut and coloured, I became quite captivated by the vision of peace and serenity that I imagined fish would bring to our home.
The kids, of course, were quite enraptured for the first few days but then their interest waned
In retrospect, if you are the kind of person that I am certainly not, and are great at tending to details and repetitive tasks and following directions, then you might do a marvelous job at keeping a fish tank clean and maintaining a carefully balanced salt-water ecosystem. Our tank soon looked murky and overgrown with algae and I felt sorry for the fish and their dismal environment every time I walked by the tank. It didn’t take too many months before we were passing the whole thing to my brother who, luckily, is that sort of person.
Olivia and George, however, didn’t give up on the pet idea. They decided to mount a very sophisticated campaign for hamsters that went on for a few months. Our next door neighbours had hamsters that they seemed to play with and enjoy immensely, and so acquiring hamsters was suddenly their new goal. We even overheard Olivia say at one point to George, ‘you just have to never ever let up. This always works in getting what you want.’
This full-proof strategy culminated with the kids presenting to us a massive document called ‘Hamsters for Hope’. It was a 10 page proposal outlining all of the different ways hamsters would enrich our lives, reasons that we should give in, and a very elaborately laid-out plan for their care.
Admittedly, Dan and I were fairly in awe of the time and creativity that went into creating this document and, lo and behold, their plan of relentlessness worked.
Soon we had two hamsters, Daisy and Hamilton. This time the novelty and love affair went on for a few weeks. George, industrious as he is, even built a homemade hamster dwelling out of a giant plastic tub that offered Daisy more room, better play options, and had better access for cleaning. However, even though the kids continued to clean the cages (as I flat out refused), Daisy and Hamilton were predictably living out most of their time in the laundry room.
About 6 months after the hamsters entered our lives, our aforementioned neighbours got a new Labrador puppy. If you think our kids were excited about hamsters, you can imagine how they felt about this puppy. As I gushed over the gorgeous and energetic new chocolate brown Lab, I can actually remember thinking, ‘I am so not up for the work that a puppy would take.’
However, once again the kids put their foolproof strategy to work, this time on high gear. Sure enough, eventually worn down, we found ourselves posting the hamsters on Kijiji and turning our focus to considering the pet that the kids had really wanted all along, a dog.
That Thanksgiving break we spent two full days obsessively researching breeds.
Whereas this had been a non-starter for so long, suddenly, I just knew that a puppy was going to find its way to us very soon and I felt excited. In my mind, I repeatedly asked that it be a good fit for our family and imagined a gentle, sweet puppy making its way to us. Once Dan got on the computer to join the search, we all knew ‘Operation Get a Puppy’ had been won. Before we knew it, I was talking to a kind woman who bred Miniature Australian Shepherds on her farm and making arrangements for us to make the drive out to go have a look at her newest batch of puppies.
We won’t ever forget the joy of driving home with our Marty in his new crate. We couldn’t take our eyes off him. It took about 11 minutes for Marty to win us all over, utter and completely. He was such an eager, sweet boy. We stopped at a park on the way home and the sight of the kids running around with him filled my heart absolutely. Even Dan, who is really not a dog person, was beaming.
This felt right. My health was better, I really did have the energy this time, and the kids were old enough to help.
Sometimes dreams take a long time, and it’s never really just A to B. My kids never gave up (which was annoying but at least showed drive and ingenuity), we needed to figure out what wasn’t going to work, and the time needed to be right. The path to our desires is often long, meandering, and scenic but that’s the stuff of life.
Marty was worth the wait.