For 20 years, I never slept in. Not because of kids. Because of pets.
Each morning, if I didn’t tiptoe downstairs before 6 or 7 for doggy detail, one or both of our canines would howl — a very woeful, very loud sound — which would wake up everyone.
In later years, as our dogs became seniors, the stakes were higher: a terrible mess to clean up in the kitchen where they slept at night.
Remember the story of the little red hen? All the farm animals wanted to eat the delicious bread the industrious chicken baked, but no one wanted to help her with the various tasks involved. In my opinion, that story is a lot like owning a family pet.
Because, in my experience, when it comes to pets, 90% of the care falls on the mother.
This includes feeding and watering, walking (or letting in and out), scooping litter boxes, grooming, sweeping up shed pet hair, purchasing pet supplies and vet visits. And if your pet is prone to running away, locating its whereabouts.
In our house, dogs represented a mere tip of the pet iceberg. At one point, we owned 12 pets: two dogs, two guinea pigs and eight rabbits. That’s a lot of poop to scoop, mouths to feed and vet bills to pay.
The truth is, our plethora of pets was my fault.
For years, I thought if I refused the passionate pleas for a(nother) pet, the world would end. Or at the very least, one or all of our children would cease to adore me.
One day, though, I resisted the urge to immediately say yes when our middle child declared, “If we don’t buy the baby mouse at Petco, she’ll be sold for snake food and, since she’s black, the snake will be able to see her really easily. Please, Mommy, please!”
Willing my eyes not to well with tears, I said, “If she’s still there tomorrow, we’ll talk.” Thankfully the mouse was gone the next day.
On multiple occasions, remembering my little red hen pet theory has strengthened my “just say no” muscle. Namely when dogs and cats of all ages populate my Facebook feed with heartstring-plucking captions like, “Please give me a furr-ever home!”
Honestly, it’s not just our kids who love animals. If it were up to me, I’d take in all the animals.
In fact, now that our three children have left home, now that we’re down to three pets — two cats and one bunny — I’ve thought perhaps we should consider another pet. Maybe a dog.
For sure, we love our cats, and the fact that they are so easy to care for. But dogs are so fun. And bouncy. So eager to please. When they go for car rides and their ears blow back and their tongue hangs out? Good golly, that’s cute!
Last spring, before I could broach the subject with my husband, our middle child messaged us from Peru, where she was teaching English. “I adopted a puppy with special needs and I’m bringing her home. OK?”
How do you say no to that? Besides, it would only be until our daughter got her own place.
Trinity the Peruvian pup was adorable. However, her wonky digestive system was not. Neither was her fondness for torturing our felines. And inhaling their food. In addition, Trinity is what’s known as a “power chewer.” If left to her own devices, she could do some major damage.
All to say, Trinity reminded Tony and me how much work a dog can be. She also taught us a new pet doesn’t just affect you. It also affects your existing animals.
For the sake of your beauty sleep, stress level, family budget and the well-being of your existing pets, I urge you to learn from my pet lesson. And the little red hen.