When my daughter was in third grade, she Googled “hypoallergenic dog” after years of hearing me tell her that our severe allergies prevented us from fulfilling her wish for a puppy.
She created a presentation on a rare breed, the Coton de Tulear, highlighting a list of reasons why this no-shed pup was the perfect dog for our family. I found images of this fluffy white dog with dark, expressive eyes whenever I opened my computer.
At the time, I used the classic parenting delay tactic -- “we’ll see” -- instead of an outright rejection. I knew that with two young children and a career, I did not want to take on the responsibility of another living being. My husband had zero interest in acquiring a pet. Neither of us grew up with dogs. We both come from traditional Muslim families who believed dogs should be kept outside the home for reasons related to ritual purity when praying.
Fast-forward seven years: The kids are both teenagers, my daughter’s desire for a dog hasn’t abated, and I’m starting to feel a little anxious about how quickly the years of child-rearing are passing. I’m more susceptible to an adorable creature that needs nurturing.
I struck a deal with my spouse that the dog would stay out of certain areas of the house, and we got on a waiting list with a reputable breeder.
When picked up our 10-week-old Frankie (short for Franklin D. Woofevelt), my maternal instincts kicked into overdrive.
For the first few nights, I moved an air mattress into the kitchen near Frankie’s crate and slept in front of him, so he wouldn’t cry at night. I reverted to familiar concerns from when our kids were babies: I worried he wasn’t eating enough, though the vet assured me he was growing just fine. I wondered if he would ever get potty-trained. I wasn’t sure how long his separation anxiety phase would last, or when he would outgrow his teenage rebellion. Sometimes he reminds me of the kids as toddlers: When I use the restroom, he sits right outside the door, anxiously awaiting my return. I entice him to eat his grain-free kibble by adding bits of apples or green beans. The first time I left him with a pet sitter overnight, I typed up a page of instructions.
I could tell I was becoming one of “those” dog people. I was reminded of an essay a reader sent me in 2017, in which the writer warned apocalyptically that pets were replacing children in America. Several such screeds point to the rising rate of dog ownership among millennials, the increasing amount pet owners spend on their animals and the delayed birth rate among this cohort. The reader who sent me the link seemed angry -- at her kids and the culture that has encouraged pet worship -- but she also seemed sad. Would she have to settle for grandpups instead of grandbabies?
Once I scoffed at people who described their pets as “furbabies,” and now I monitor the livestream feed of Frankie’s doggy daycare on my phone. I had to stop myself from calling the center when I witnessed a large goldendoodle bullying my baby -- er, dog.
It’s easy to mock the more ridiculous aspects of pet culture. But had I known the unconditional, enthusiastic love a dog offers, I would never have waited this long. Frankie is way more excited to see me than my kids have been -- outwardly, at least -- in years. And while raising a dog is surprisingly expensive, they never go to college.
I’ve been surprised by my intense bond with this furry creature. Even my daughter said recently that she hadn’t expected me to fall so hard for Frankie. I’m trying to be as objective as possible here: He is legitimately the cutest, sweetest, most lovable dog I’ve ever seen. If I had gotten a puppy 20 years ago, I can easily see how I might have put off having babies for a while.
I guess we found each other at the perfect time.
Frankie turns 1 this weekend.
You’ll have to excuse me; I have a cake to order.