REVISITED: Does Having a Dog Prepare You For Having a Kid? The Answer — Not Really

About a year ago, before I ever had a kid, I wrote about how I thought that having a dog would prepare me, at least a little, for having a child.  After all, once you have a dog, you have to clean up after it, feed it, and you can’t go away for a weekend or something without taking care of it.  All true.

That said, now that I have a baby, I realize what a schmuck I was.  Babies are much tougher.  First of all, I never realized simply how stupid babies are. The dog is stupid, but at least has a survival instinct that keeps him, for example, from jumping off our deck.  The baby is not only stupid, but seems to have no interest in staying alive.  I spend a lot of time just trying to keep him from killing himself: babyproofing cabinets, putting up stair guards, etc.  Still, he keeps finding ways that could put himself in danger. Maybe he’s depressed.  Can babies get depressed?

Of course, there are other difference.  Having a dog didn’t prepare me for how needy a baby is.  The dog will usually just chill for a while, sitting in corner or in his crate.  Babies require a lot more attention.  I sort of knew that, but I sort of thought we could occasionally plop him down in a pack-n-play, away from all the dangerous things that he likes to sneak around to, and take a nap.  That doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

So, yeah, it’s a lot more work. But all that said, I do think that having a dog is one of those milestones on the road to maturity that you pass on the way to having a child.  That is, the “I am mature enough to care for others besides myself” continuum goes like this:
  • Get a plant.  Try to keep the plant alive.  If the plant dies, stop here. Don’t get any other living things that might depend on you for their survival. If the plant lives, though, then keep going.
  • Get a dog.  Try to keep the dog alive.  If the dog dies because you forgot to feed it for two weeks, stop here.  Go back to getting a plant and start over. If the dog lives, though, then keep going.
  • Have a baby.  Try to keep the baby alive.  Definitely do NOT kill the baby.  Practice is over.

So far, so good.  Most of my plants are still alive, the dog is doing well, and so far I have managed to keep the baby alive, despite all his best efforts to off himself.

First a Dog, Now a Baby: My Poop-Filled Life

I used to have a poop-free life.  Not completely poop-free, of course. I had to deal with my own poop.  Not a whole lot of fun there.  But at least it was only mine. One person’s pool.  Ahh, the good old days.

Then I got a dog, and that was the end of the poop-free life. I had to deal with poop pretty much every day. On a good day, it was a good poop: a poop on the grass, during our daily walks, while I was armed with a baggie. Or a poop on the wee-wee pad in my bathroom, which has become Kozy the Dog’s designated “inside poop zone.”  On a bad day, though, a bad poop: a poop, say, on the living room rug.  But good or bad, there was poop.  Every day.

Now I have a baby, and my life is nothing but poop. Bad poop. People warned me, but I never quite appreciated how babies are basically poop machines.  They’re amazing, these little tiny beautiful creatures, constantly pumping out an astounding flow of truly ghastly poop.

How do they do that? What kind of unholy alchemy is this? This transubstantiation of liquid into solid, or at least something that is partly solid.  You put in a little bit of harmless-looking formula, and you get back a noxious miasma of inhuman sludge.

People ask me what’s the biggest change now that I’ve moved to the suburbs.  That.  That’s the biggest change.

  • City = Poop Free
  • Suburbs = Poop Filled

Now, I know that I can’t blame it on the suburbs.  It’s really more correlation than causation.  I know that. But of the many things that I miss about living in the city, right at the top of what is a pretty long list is this: the loss of my poop-free life.

Does Having a Dog Prepare You For Having a Kid?

I’ve written before how all my parent friends are enjoying themselves right now at the news that we’re going to have a kid. Most of them had kids years ago, and they’re getting a lot of kicks out of the idea of me becoming a father at 44.  “Oh, it’s going to be so hard.”  “What a big change.”  Stuff like that.

So just to mess with them, I keep shrugging it off, telling them that it’s no big deal.  After all, I have a dog.  That’s pretty much the same thing.

Oh, how they hate that.  They start sputtering: “Outrageous!  How can you compare having a dog to having a kid?!?”  Okay, people don’t exclaim “Outrageous!” anymore, but you catch my drift.

And I really am just messing with them.  I don’t think it’s the same thing, but I actually think that having a dog is good preparation for having a kid.  Just hear me out.

  • First, having a dog means that you get used to cleaning up someone’s poop. That’s a big step in a man’s life.  Once you’ve broken the seal on that, a little more poop isn’t going to make a difference.
  • Second, having a dog means that you have to feed something every day if you want to keep it alive. Plants? You can water them once in a while, whenever you remember.  Plants will deal.  You have to remember to feed the dog, just like you’ll have to remember to feed the baby.
  • Third, having a dog means that you’ve already lost your freedom, anyway.  It used to be we could decide to just go away for the weekend, literally at the last minute. Those days are done.  Can’t leave a dog alone at home for the weekend.

You see my point?  Same thing!  Piece of cake.

Okay, yes, I understand that a baby has a much higher degree of difficulty.  But I do think that any couple thinking of having kids should first think about getting a dog.  At the very least, if you find that you actually can’t keep a dog alive — if, for example, you run off to Atlantic City for the weekend and only remember that you have a dog when you smell his rotting carcass upon your return — then you probably should keep practicing good birth control.

Why Everyone Should Own a Dog, Including and Especially Single Men

We’ve had the Kozy dog for a little over a year now, and I will say without reservation that it is the best decision that I have every made, other than marrying my wife, a clarification I feel obligated to make because I do enjoy the occasional sexy time that I would almost certainly never have again if I said that buying a dog was a better decision than getting married. Not to mention that, with the real estate market struggling like it has, I don’t quite have the wherewithal to give up half my money.  So the wife is the best decision, no question.  But the dog was a pretty good one, too.

Here’s why: no one has ever been as happy to see me, at any point in my life, as that dog is every single time I come home.  I’ve never seen such joy. It’s at a level of Times Square at the end of World War II, but EVERY SINGLE DAY.  I come home, and he’s practically quivering with joy, shaking his tail so vigorously that he basically is shaking his whole body.  My wife? She might rouse herself from the couch to give me a kiss hello.  But my dog loses his mind.

So far, that’s really the best part about living in the suburbs. I never wanted a dog in the city, because I could not bear the thought of having to climb up and down those stupid stairs every day to walk him all the time.  But in retrospect, I was wrong.  I should have gotten a dog years ago, although that would mean I wouldn’t have THIS dog, and I honestly can’t imagine having any dog than Kozy.  Yes, I know that if I’d gotten a dog five years ago, before Kozy was ever born, I’d love that dog too and be unable to imagine owning any other dog.  But that hypothetical imaginary version of me is simple wrong: THIS dog is the best.

So I should have gotten a dog back when I lived in the city.  Frankly, everyone should have a dog: urbanist, suburbanite, people living on the moon.  Get a dog.

In fact, I’d particularly recommend my single male friends looking for female companionship to get a dog.  First of all, having a dog is a signal to women that you have at least some basic nurturing skills, which women find sexy.  Nothing turns a woman off more than to come back to your apartment and find some long-dead plant festering in the corner, a sign that you’re so incapable of taking care of anything that you couldn’t even manage to WATER A PLANT.  You bring that young lady back up to your place, and show her that you’ve actually managed to keep a dog alive, and you’re well on your way to Sexy Time.

Second, having a dog is a pretty well-known way to meet women. You don’t realize how many other people have dogs until you have one yourself.  It’s like how when you buy a car, you start to notice all the other people who have the same car.  So now that I have a dog, I’ve started to notice all the people walking their dogs when I’m in the city, something to which I was completely oblivious back in my ignorant dog-free days.  And a lot of those people are young, attractive women who have clearly recognized the value of unqualified adoration, something they apparently aren’t getting so much of from the likes of you.  They’re out there, walking their dogs, waiting for you.  Not to mention how cute dogs, and my dog is awfully cute are like catnip (okay, mixing animal metaphors a bit here) to women.  Walk a dog, meet a woman. It’s that simple, and a lot easier than trolling bars.

Third, dogs are great for screening out women that you probably shouldn’t be dating or marrying.  If you’re dating a woman who doesn’t like dogs, that’s a really bad sign.  If she likes cats, that’s even worse, because cats are terrible, awful, evil things.  A woman who loves dogs has an appreciation for mindless, stupid creatures who give unbounded affection but make a lot of messes, which is exactly what men are. A woman who hates dogs is probably not going to like living with you, especially you, because you’re a pig.

Of course, all that wisdom comes too late for me, already happily married.  But it’s not too late for you.  You married people?  Get a dog.  Single people.  Get a dog.  Everyone should get a dog.

The Unanticipated Politics of Getting a Dog

I wasn’t prepared for the politics of getting a dog.  Wow.

Since I got my new suburban accessory, a cute little half-Pomeranian, half-Shitsu ball of fur called Kozy the Dog, I’ve been asked by a lot of people where I got him.  I guess that because of my general liberal sensibilities, people assumed that OF COURSE I would go to a shelter rather than a pet store.  And when they found out that I actually did the horrible, awful, convenient thing of buying a dog at a store, I got this look like I’d just wrenched a baby seal from the protective comfort of her mother and clubbed her to death.

Listen, I get it.  I tried very hard to get a shelter dog, did all my research online looking for the kind of dog I wanted, put out feelers in all the local shelters, but it just didn’t happen in time.  I wanted a dog for my wife for a Christmas gift, and I guess that’s when demand is high and supply is low, because the shelters just didn’t have the types of dogs I wanted available in the time I needed. Yes, my deadline was arbitrary, but, well, I wanted a stupid dog to give to my wife for Christmas.  So sue me.

So I went to pet store, run by some very nice people in the area. Took my wife there, we looked at the dogs, fell in love with the Kozy dog.  He was maybe, probably the result of a puppy mill, which I think is terrible.  But nothing I could do about that.  He was already alive, already there, nothing I could do about that.  Again, go ahead and sue me.  I found a dog I liked, and I got him.

The backlash literally started the same day.  All excited to have our new puppy, and committed as usual to supporting small local businesses, we went into a local store to buy some doggy stuff — food, some bedding, etc.  So the guy behind the counter, old guy, not the friendliest of local proprietors, asked me where I got the dog.  And when I tell him, he sneers at me, “Oh, I just don’t get it — people who sell dogs,” in the kind of tone that someone might say “Oh, people who sell human body parts.”  And he points to some dogs that I guess his store shelters part-time, two dogs that God-Bless-Their-Poor-Hearts-I-Hope-Someone-Adopts-Them look like the kind of beasts that should be applying to guard Hades, and tells me that i could have gotten those dogs instead of buying one at a store.  Given that I just wanted a small dog, and that I don’t own a junk yard that I’m trying to guard, it wasn’t really an option.  Strike one.

So then he asks me what breed it is. I tell him what the sign said when I got him, that it was a “Pomshu,” which is this cute little name that people have come up with for half-Poms, half-Shitsus, sort of that whole “designer dog” idea.  Another sneer: “Oh, so he’s a mutt.”  Okay, fine, I probably did sound a little like a jackass, but that is, in my defense, what the stupid sign said.  Fine, he’s a mutt, I have no problem with that, but it bothered me that he thought I did.  Strike two.

And then to add to my cavalcade of consumer happiness, he asks how old he is.  My wife tells him that the dog is about three months old, and he shoots back, “well, I guess he was there for a while, that no one wanted him.”  That would be strike three.

So, basically, we didn’t buy anything.  One local business that I don’t need to support.

Again, I get it.  I love dogs. I love animals. I don’t like people to exploit them.  I’m not about to throw blood at people, or forswear eating meat or wearing leather, but I’m in that squishy middle ground that most people are in.  So if I could have gotten a shelter dog, I would have.  But I couldn’t, at least not the type of dog in the time I wanted.

You want to revoke my “good liberal” card, then go ahead.  But I just wanted a dog for my wife, I wasn’t trying to save the world.  I gave a chunk of money to my local shelter in Kozy’s name, I’ll give another chunk next year, and that’s my contribution.

In the meantime, excuse me, I’m going to go clean up some poop.

Suburban Rite of Passage: Getting a Dog — The End of My Poop-Free Life

My wife always wanted us to get a dog.  She’s allergic to like every kind of hair except dog hair, oddly enough, so I think that part of her just wants a dog so she can curl up next to something hairy without getting all itchy.

But she bugged me for years about getting one, to the point that one year she asked if I wanted a hint for what to get her for Christmas.  I said, “sure,” and she responded by going like this: “Ruff Ruff.”  Which I think is unfair, insofar as barking like a dog is not really so much of a hint as it is a command.  So no dog for her that year.

It’s not that I don’t like dogs. I love dogs.  But I didn’t want to have a dog in the city.  It’s just too tough.  You can’t take the dog anywhere you go, you can’t even take a dog off leash in Central Park, and walking the dog seems like it would horrible to both human and dog.  Walking city streets is great, walking a dog is great, walking a dog on city streets is horrible: hard pavement, constant fear of passing cars, etc.  And if you don’t have outdoor space, you either train the dog really, really well to hold it in while you’re at work, or your apartment slowly becomes a poop zone.

On top of all that, it was the stairs. I’ve mentioned the stairs before. Four flights.  The idea of schlepping that stupid dog up and down all those stairs every time he had to take a poop was just unfathomable.

So no dog while we were in the city.  It was one of the few arguments I ever won with my wife.  My life was a complete poop-free zone.  No kids. No dog.  The only poop I had to deal with was my own, which was frankly all I could handle.

But then, of course, we moved to the suburbs — otherwise known as “Doggie Heaven”.  Big back yards, lots of dog-friendly parks, dog runs, people with dogs, kids with dogs, dog stores, everything a dog could want. And although we didn’t have a yard, we had an elevator, so walking the dog would be a lot easier.

I held out for as long as I could.  I really enjoyed that poop-free life of mine.  We’re going to have a kid at some point (the next great Suburban Rite of Passage), at which time my life will become heavily invested with OPP (“other people’s poop”), so my hope was to hold off on getting a dog until I had no other choice.

That said, I didn’t really hold out for long. I made it until Christmas, the first gift-giving holiday following our move to the suburbs.  So really, I didn’t hold out at all.  First holiday, new dog. A cute little half-Pomeranian, half-Shitsu puppy that we named “Kozy,” after a little stuffed animal called “Kozy Bear” that I’d gotten my wife a few years ago.  He’s a really great dog, and my wife is committed to teaching him how to poop in specially designated poop areas.  So I have some guarded optimism.

Move to the suburbs, then get a dog.  One of the great Suburban Rites of Passage.