By: Tanya Ward Goodman
My daughter wants a dog. She wants an “interesting dog.” She doesn’t want a “plain old boring” dog. No ordinary white dogs or brown dogs need apply. She wants something splashy. My son wants a poodle. My husband isn’t wild about fluffy dogs. He doesn’t want a dog with short legs or too much fur and most especially, he does not want any of that crusty brownish goo around the eyes or mouth. Crust is a real a deal breaker. After much consideration, I think I might want a dog, but actually need a massage therapist who is also a housekeeper and a four-star chef.
Growing up, I had somewhere near 68 pets, and the small pack of chameleons that roamed our houseplants. We had dogs and cats, ferrets, guinea pigs, an iguana and even an owl.
My husband had a hamster named Pixie.
Our kids have never had a dog.
And so, the search begins. We are like the blind men with the elephant, to each of us, “dog” conjures up a different image.
In New Mexico, where I grew up, pets just sort of appear. You “put it out there,” or “open up to the idea,” and “the universe provides.”
Here in Los Angeles, it seems to be a much more complicated process. This weekend, we had a meet and greet with a foster dog and when the sparks didn’t fly, we headed to the Pasadena Humane Society where we found several dogs we wouldn’t mind taking for a test spin. We filled out an application, waited for our turn with a “consultant,” and found out that there was a hold on one dog and waiting lists for the others. We left without touching a single hair of a furry little nose, without even a whiff of dog breath.
My daughter seemed okay with this. Until we got to the car. And then she lost it.
“I don’t want a dog,” she sobbed. “I hate you guys,” she shouted.
And then she fell asleep. My husband and I held a whispered conversation. We had numerous questions, perhaps first and foremost: HOW in THE WORLD were we going to get through this? (Maybe that’s the question that came first because it is a familiar one and we always forget that the answer is “WHO KNOWS HOW, but YOU WILL.”)
When my daughter woke up, she glowered at us and then disappeared into the living room. We were forbidden to follow. When she returned, she carried a small ceramic dog I bought at an estate sale. She dressed the dog in a doll dress and tied a makeshift cape around its stocky little neck.
“This is Chi-Wha,” she said. “My new dog. She’s a super hero.”
The ceramic dog ate dinner with us and played a round of Bingo and then went to bed with my daughter.
Chi-Wha is a good dog. She doesn’t eat, doesn’t poop, and doesn’t bark. She’s got a perpetual smile and a strangely mischievous twinkle in her eye. But she’s cold to the touch and too heavy to take on a long walk.
“We’ll find a dog,” I tell my daughter.
“I don’t want a dog,” she says.
And then the phone rings.
“Maybe that’s our dog,” she says hopefully.
And one day it will be. I’m putting it out there.