When I became a parent, I knew I would face lots of judgment from others. Would I send my baby to the nursery the night they were born? Would I sleep train? Would I let them eat the cracker they just dropped on the floor? — the answer to that last one was always “yes.” Little did I know, though, that most of the judgment I would face as a parent would come down to one major issue…raising my kids in a pet-free home.
We hear it all the time from family and friends.
“How can you raise a family without a pet?”
“Every kid deserves a dog.”
“Having a pet teaches kids responsibilities.”
Now, before you go on picturing me to be some version of Cruella de Vil, please know that I don’t hate animals and I don’t hate pets. I myself had a beloved dog growing up (RIP Cocoa) and my husband grew up in a modern-day menagerie with cats, dogs, horses, chickens, sugar gliders, ferrets, rats, and more.
On our first date, my husband told me that he had two cats. Me not being a big fan of cats wondered if that should be a dealbreaker. But he was too damn cute and eventually I let him and his cats burrow their way into my heart. A few years later, our sweet English Bulldog, Ellie, came into our life. Before our kids, our pets were our babies. We cared for them and spoiled them like children, filling their own stockings with gifts each Christmas and taking Ellie to frequent visits to Sheridan’s Frozen Custard for her very own puppy cone.
But then when our kids came along our pets became just our pets. After our second was born, our sweet Ellie began showing signs of her age and her lack of tolerance of a pesky toddler. She nipped at our oldest a few times and for the safety and consideration of both our daughter and our pup, Ellie went to live with a family friend who could give her the love and attention she deserved in her later years, and over the years, we got down to zero pets and three kids.
And do you know what we realized?
Life was a bit simpler without the pets around. We had enough mouths to feed and puke and poop to clean up on our own without coming from those of the four-legged variety. We could head out of town on a moment’s notice, we could stay at a friend’s house later without having to rush home to let a pup outside and our house stayed a lot cleaner without the constant battle of dealing with pet hair.
Did we miss our pets? Sure. But the void they left behind was quickly filled with the ins and outs of raising three young children.
We live on a street with a bunch of amazing neighbors with a bevy of dogs at my children’s fingertips. These pups that I so lovingly refer to as “The Bumpus Hounds” are the best of both worlds. Like being an aunt or uncle, you play with them, rile them up, then send them on their way home. Recently, our neighbor brought over her two dogs for a driveway visit. While visiting with them one of her dogs got sick in our driveway. It was no big deal, we were able to hose it off and go about our visit. But it opened big talks that night with our kids, especially our oldest because she didn’t realize that pets getting sick is part of the deal, too. Oh yeah, little lady! Just like parenthood—you get the good, the bad, and the ugly.
While we are pet-less now, we know that we won’t always be. Our children are lobbying HARD for a pet. In a world of pandemic puppies and quarantine kitties, they’ve seen our neighbors, family, and friends add to their brood and it’s giving my kids major FOMO. So for now, we’ve agreed to a fish and fish tank for each of them. They have 30 days to prove that they are prepared for the responsibility of a fish by doing their daily and weekly chores without wining and complaining….we may never get the fish.
There will come a day when we find the right time to add to our family with a dog. **I only fell for my husband’s cats…not all cats.** A time when our three kids can take on the responsibilities of the pet together. And I’m sure, in the end like many kids do, they won’t care for it as much as they promise, and my husband and I will take on the responsibilities while tandemly falling in love with the dog and eventually arguing over who the dog loves more. Of course, it will be me!
In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my life now, a life where my floors are not covered in dog hair and my kids can eat their dropped crackers off of it.