I mentioned in a previous post that we are dog-sitting this week, for a neighbor. The folks live close by, the dog is small and sweet, and he's able to stay in his own home and get by with visits and walks. The occasional field trip to our home is exciting for him at first, and then he realizes that we aren't hiding his people there, and the same dismayed expression comes over him before he sighs and lies down with chin between paws, looking pitiful.
Pet-sitting is good practice for us. My son is delighted when we dog-sit for these friends. He adores the dog, at least until he's bored with him, and it's nice to have a warm, fuzzy thing around again. (We lost our elderly kitty just over a year ago, you may recall.) We even did some fish-sitting earlier in the fall for a different neighbor while they vacationed at the beach, but I figure that somewhere in the word "pet" is a history of being able to actually pet and stroke the creature in question—and I don't see how that's possible with a goldfish, which in my mind eliminates the fish from any list of potential pets...
Anyway, not only is the sitting good practice for us, it's also a realistic reminder of what pets entail. For example, most of them have a distinctive animal odor. Sometimes they like to scratch and dig at things: themselves, you, the furniture, the floor. Our borrowed dog has the itchiest snout known to canines, and he loves to rub it on any and everything he can find. And some dogs (this one, for example) tend to regurgitate meals that are taken in too quickly, or when the pup's stomach is already upset from heartbreak over disappearing people.
Then there's the whole issue of following the furball around with a scooper and a bag. Just like cats who must eat soft food, I'm sad to share, the dogs on soft-food diets also have what must be the most squishy, malodorous waste in the world. Put a few bags of those treats in your garbage can (the outdoor one, of course) and you'll swear a couple days later that there's a dead body in there.
I realize dog-sitting someone else's pooch is not the same as having your own. Your own pet would rejoice at your presence, instead of eventually rebuffing you in sadness. Your own would have a different schedule, and you could fence in a portion of yard or control whether the dog was bathed frequently.
But I would not be able to control that the dog has favorites, and that it may not be me. This dog, searching madly for a replacement Alpha dog, is not happy unless Todd is around. The little guy will run around the house, searching for Todd. He'll bark at the top of the steps if he suspects Todd is downstairs (he's not), and will resist going back into his own home if he hasn't ascertained that an Alpha dog is still in the vicinity and still in charge.
I also would not be able to control the need for a dog-sitter in our home if we had to be away. We don't travel much these days, but it still bears considering. Are we able to cover days and nights away? Would we simply exchange favors with the neighbors? What if they get rid of their dog, or he dies, and the debt can no longer be repaid? What then? Kennels are expensive and traumatizing.
Additionally, I can see that if a dog should join our family (or even another cat for that matter), the bulk of responsibility would still fall on my shoulders. Am I ready or willing to take that on at this time? Not sure. Maybe when my son is a bit older, this will be a more attractive option.
Right now, I think I'm happy to borrow. Last evening, I was walking with my boy and this little neighbor dog in a howling, frigid wind, holding a make-you-want-to-retch bag of poo as far from me as I could, and I was undeniably immersed in the true meaning of dog ownership. Fuzzy companionship, loving eyes, and so much more. Maybe this isn't the season for us yet.
Please, remind me of all this if I start romanticizing pets come springtime. All it'll take is one whiff of puppy breath, one squeaky kitten mew, and I'll be foolish again.