Most people I know have a dog, and it seems to have become part of the culture of family life today. Contrary to what one of my neighbours thinks, I don’t hate dogs – I actually like them quite a bit, and there are a few that I am awfully fond of (Hi Logan! Hi Max!) But I have to confess that I just don’t get dog ownership. I see families in our neighbourhood whose children are starting to get bigger and more independent, and then, just as the parents are getting their freedom back, they buy a puppy. All of a sudden the parents are back to being tied to home again. They have to get home to feed the dog, or walk the dog, or let the dog out, or whatever else it is that dogs need. It’s like they are back to having an infant or toddler in the house, except this one will never grow up. Honestly, I am a bit baffled by it.
I used to work with a someone in his mid twenties, who last year lived in an apartment downtown with his girlfriend. They could both walk to work in under 15 minutes. They recently bought a house out in the country, and now their commute is over an hour each way. And they have just gotten a puppy too. Now, instead of staying downtown after work or going out somewhere, they have to get home for the dog. When I was in my twenties and I lived in an apartment downtown with Tony, we walked everywhere, including to the Market several times each week. We had no need of a car, and we were free to come and go and do as we pleased (except of course for all of that grad school work and lack of money, ha). We still had a lot of fun at the time though and I just cannot relate to wanting to be tied down to a pet at such an early age.
Now I need to confess to you that I am incredibly allergic to dogs and cats. This is not just an inconvenient snuffle or eye itching. I have about 10 minutes in a house with a cat before I am in distress. I get about half an hour with a furry dog, and about an hour with the kinds of dogs that people call hypo-allergenic. If I go to a movie or a play, I need to take an antihistamine before I go because of the pet fur that people are carrying with them on their clothing.
I have been accused of depriving my children for not letting them have a pet. People look at me skeptically when I say I’m too allergic to have one, and also when I turn down invitations to their homes because they own a pet. I know that I could do allergy shots, but it would take years and years, and honestly I don’t believe in changing my immune system for the sake of pets. I really am not motivated to do this. I truly enjoy being pet-free and having one fewer inhabitant of our home who needs care from me. I feel like I am busy enough.
But since everyone has a dog these days, our neighbours all around us have them too. We get to enjoy these dogs and spend time with them, and then let them go home afterwards. It’s kind of like being a grandparent to all of the little critters in our neighbourhood, and that is all right by me.