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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First Published Wed, 2012-09-26 14:33

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