Why I Don't Want a Midlife Dog

Pamela Redmond Satran reflects on why she will never get a dogand she doesn't feel the least bit guilty!

by Pamela Redmond Satran
no fido illustration
Photograph: Illustration: Gary Taxali

Dear Fido,

The first piece of bad news I must deliver is that if I adopted you, I’d call you Rover or Spot or, yes, Fido instead of one of those cool dog names like Lola or Rufus.

Which may make you feel better about my second piece of bad news, which is that I’m not adopting you. Ever.

I thought it was going to happen, I really did. Not when my three kids were little, but when they were preteens and adolescents. As Nora Ephron famously said, when your kids hit that age, “it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.”

But my husband and kids couldn’t nix the idea fast enough. Even when I offered to do all the walking and feeding, they showed as much enthusiasm as if I’d said I was thinking of buying a Kelly bag.

So instead of adopting you, I bought myself a Kelly bag. Metaphorically, I mean. I signed up for a writing class in the city. A bunch of us later morphed into a writing group, complete with dinners at one another’s far-flung houses. I stepped up my career. Lost a bunch of weight and gained it again, three or four times, which, let me tell you, is a lot more work than teaching a puppy to pee outdoors.

After my kids left home, I revisited the adoption idea. For the price of a dog license, I could fill my home with those things that husbands so rarely provide: wordless adoration, unconditional acceptance, a willingness to snuggle with no expectation of sexual payback.

But I couldn’t deny the realities. You would bark. You would chew up my Prada shoes, if I had Prada shoes. And inevitably you would poop. And I would be the one with a plastic bag on my hand, picking it up. Or, you know, scrubbing it out of the carpet. The thought of all that makes my palms sweat, because it feels a lot like having a baby again.

As much as I’d love to relive a day—OK, an hour—of my children’s infancies, I do not miss the 24/7 reality. I’m not supposed to admit this, but I often felt overwhelmed and oppressed by parenting my human babies, even though I would have unthinkingly laid down my life for them. You? Sorry, Fido, but no one’s taking any bullets.

The fact is, I’m ready to reclaim my freedom. And I have only a limited time to revel in it: 10 or 15 years—the span of a dog’s life, come to think of it—when I can realistically count on being healthy and energetic and productive and cogent. I don’t want to spend a minute of it picking up dog poop.

I need to get out of the mom jeans and into the kinds of chic black clothes that are hell with dog hair. After decades of falling asleep at 9 on Saturday nights, I need to invite friends for dinner—without having to apologize for your sticking your nose in somebody’s crotch (you know you would).

So I’m sorry, Fido, but I’m not going to adopt you. Some nice person who’s reading this may shake her head and feel sad that I’m missing so much dog joy, and she may be right. There’s a lot to be said for companionship and commitment. But for me, for now, there’s more to be said for having a great pair of heels and a life that goes with them.

Pamela Redmond Satran is the author of the new humor book Rabid: Are You Crazy About Your Dog or Just Crazy?, about our over-the-top dog culture. She also wrote the best seller How Not to Act Old.

Next: The Secret Delights of Disorder

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Share Your Thoughts!


T 09.14.2014

While I personally can't imagine life without a dog (& I've never had to), I'm really glad I read this. I'm childfree by choice & the reactions you've gotten below, are the reactions I get to my decision. To be perfectly candid, I was a little horrified upon first reading this, until I recognized the delicious irony. Thank you for giving me some perspective and enjoy your clean, quiet home & dinner parties!

I can so relate to this article. Having had a few dogs and loved them in my lifetime. I'm at the midlife place where I relish the freedom of worrying only about myself, after a life of taking care of kids, pets, husbands and elderly parents. No having to get up to feed and walk them and pick up their poop and take them to the vet and worry about them on a vacation or hire a pet sitter or pay for a kennel and feel guilty leaving them or having to rush home from a pleasant outing to feed and walk and not feel guilty for being away from them for too long, and the hundreds of dollars or more each year for food and medical bills. I'm tired just thinking about it. Did I mention doggy breath, drool, fleas and hair all over the place to clean? Whining when left, barking, chewing up irreplaceable items... the list of reasons not to adopt a dog are far longer and more expensive than having a cuddle and a being that follows you around constantly and will not leave you alone for a minute. Those of you who are ranting about how selfish she is because apparently everyone should adopt at least one animal because there are so many in the shelters... Well, why don't you adopt a few kids, since there are so many in orphanages? What, no? How selfish of you!


Wow, and 'they' say animal welfare advocates are radical! I don't think this is a humorous article at all. I believe every adoptable dog in any shelter in our country should consider themselves lucky that this woman will never adopt an animal! Good lord, the arrogance is truly hard to believe; a waste of article space!

Peregrinita 12.02.2012

This is exactly how I feel about pets and there is no reason to apologize for it! Thank you for writing this article!

Monica 11.06.2012

Reading this article made me sick to my stomach. This self-centered,ignorant woman puts her Prada shoes above a saved dog's life. Obviously she never saw dogs being murdered in the gas chamber or by heartstick, their sad eyes pleading for a chance to live... PLUS October was Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month,so your timing was impeccable!!!
MORE MAGAZINE used to be one of my favorites,but after publishing this stupid piece of garbage I'll not renew my subscription. Shame on you, shame on her!!!

leanne 11.04.2012

It's good Pamela Satran recognizes pet ownership comes with responsibility. I wouldn't try to talk her into adopting a homeless pet since she's already weighed her interest level and found it wanting. But this "humor" writer rubbed me the wrong way with her selfish focus. I guess I was too tired from my week volunteering at our local animal shelter to find levity in her topic. It's likely that seeing perfectly adoptable but unwanted puppies, kittens, cats and dogs put to sleep day after day has rendered me unable to be lighthearted about the subject. Could you pass this message along to the writer for me? When she's feeling great, enjoying her freedom and wearing her hair-free chic black clothes, could she totter over to her checkbook in her mid-life heels and write a check to her local animal shelter so that the animals that aren't getting adopted can enjoy one more day too? Thanks!

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