Here & there: Puppies should have warning labels

Composite image. Background shows newborn puppies at Loving Angel Service Dogs in St. George, Utah, November 2017 | Photo courtesy of Loving Angel Service Dogs, St. George News

FEATURE — Somewhere between almost moving to Denver and my father-in-law dying, I agreed to a dog. A puppy to be specific. A beautiful, fluffy, brown-eyed boy formerly named “pup.”

I should have known better. I’d seen my mom succumb to something similar shortly after my childhood home burned to the ground in a hot and windy Southern California wildfire.

Emotional traumas will wear down a mom’s sense like that.

Puppies, along with their soul-penetrating eyes and sweet puppy breath, should come with warning labels: Do not come within 15 feet if you have recently 1) suffered a loss, or 2) had a major life event.

I am a cautionary tale for those who do not heed. Now I am waking up at 3:27 a.m. to let out said darling puppy and smuggling him into family reunion destinations that do not technically allow dogs.

My husband and boys had been lobbying for five solid months for a dog. This particular effort was different from previous ones because my husband was a party to it. He, like me, had been set against a furry pet.

Why? We travel too much. I’m allergic to fur and dander. We have enough crazy energy in our house with three boys.

And besides, our track record of previous, lesser pet ownership was not exactly stellar. I’ll spare you a complete list of our failures, but when you can’t even manage a beta fish (overfed by a loving toddler until he exploded – the fish, not the toddler), we argued pretty convincingly that enough was enough.

Plus, there was the whole my-husband-got-slightly-maimed-by-a-dog-when-he-was-a-child thing.

But then my biggest ally turned on me and got pro-dog. In spite of the above evidence.

What did it? A dream. He woke up with an overwhelming and unshakable feeling that our boys needed the unconditional love of a dog.

I fought against this new revelation, knowing that even if that were true (and it probably was because he’s a spiritual dude), it would still mean more work for me as the primary caregiver. I can emphatically say that I don’t need any more of that.

No matter how much my boys swore they’d do it, I knew I’d be picking up poop every day along with all of the kid carpools. Not to mention the new duties of bathing, walking, training and vigilant shoe protection.

And the poop. Did I already say poop? Because sometimes I’m still scrubbing that out of boys’ underwear, and I can firmly attest to being over it. In all its forms.

But after my husband turned down the dreamy job in Denver because it wasn’t best for our family and we unexpectedly lost his dad, I had to reconsider that dog dream. Maybe our old pet history was history, and we really did need that unabashed, chase-your-tail-til-you’re-dizzy energy in our family to balance out some of the hard stuff.

Even if we travel. And even if I am allergic to most animals.

Two days after he declined the new job, and a week after his father’s passing, my husband found himself sitting in a dog pen, wearing a suit and tie, supine before the doodle dog gods. Within seconds, a brindled pup walked over to his right foot and started licking his ankle.

That’s all it took. He knew this was the dog he’d dreamt about. This was the dog for our family.

The rest of the family was just as easily smitten days later when we met the pup who’d chosen my husband. Especially me.

Who was this woman, and what had she done to the sensible mother of three boys? Whoever she was, she was now leading the brainstorming session of names for our new addition as we drove up Provo Canyon to the Heber City Cemetery to visit our fresh family grave.

In the last hours of his life, my father-in-law only talked about the things that mattered most to him: his family, nature, visiting Jerusalem and his childhood dog, Ring.

I can’t help but wonder if, in 75 years, when it’s my boys’ time to leave this earth, they’ll be thinking of their dog, Albus, and all the joy he brought to their lives.

And I’ll be glad I didn’t heed that puppy warning after all. Who am I kidding? I already am.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News. Any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected] | [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • Proud Rebel July 22, 2018 at 9:23 am

    Puppies are cute, cuddley, and labor intensive. Sort of like kids. But once they own your heart, they are wonderful. They mature, as does the family.
    They have their own personality, as we do. But, much like children, they can usually be molded into a much loved family member. Because that is exactly what they are.
    I don’t have much use for a person that has no use for pets. Particularly when there are kids in the family.

  • johncmiller July 22, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    First world problems.

  • DB July 22, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    When I was fourteen, we got our first (and only) dog. Mom bought him for my Dad but the dog seemed more attached to me. Perhaps a six month puppy can relate better to a teen. There was also the ‘good cop, bad cop’ thing going on. I was the good cop. The bad cops were always saying “on the paper, on the paper” and things like that.
    Dogs have good memories as well. Later when I’d go off to college for months at a time, he still remembered me when I returned. Maybe it was my smell as opposed to my good looks, but I’ll leave it that one alone.

    • comments July 22, 2018 at 8:32 pm

      I sometimes wonder if a dog is as sentimental of an animal as people would like to believe. I’ve “dog sat” for about 3 different dogs at one time or another for a few weeks on each occasion, and whenever the owners would arrive home the dogs behaved as if these were total strangers, and they followed me around like they’d bonded to me. I’m almost convinced that dogs are not very sentimental–if they “unbond” from their owners in a month it would seem that way. I think that like most animals they live in the moment more than anything. And maybe their favoring of specific people doesn’t really hold that long. Would like to think the opposite is true, but I’ve not seen it. I guess whoever feeds them becomes their favorite person? who knows…..

      • Striker4 July 23, 2018 at 2:17 pm

        Hey look everybody comments posted another one of his hateful opinions against helpless innocent puppies and this time he didn’t blame the Mormons for it ….Amazing

        • comments July 23, 2018 at 6:47 pm

          Not hateful, Dump. I like dogs and have had a few. I just wonder if people don’t overestimate a dog’s bond to a human. I could be wrong about this–just haven’t seen it first hand.

  • Mike P July 23, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    Puppies are a pain in the rear and are worth EVERYTHING.

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