Growing up I never had “real” pets. Sure, I had turtles and goldfish and even a snake and a chameleon (not all at the same time…), but I never had dogs or cats. The excuse was that I, as a chubby asthmatic kid, was allergic… but I always suspected that the real truth was that my mom was not inclined to deal with the hair, litter-box, poop and pee that accompany canine and feline ownership.
Call It Puppy Love
But I loved animals, and they loved me. In fact there’s an old story about the time when I was three and we were at a barbecue at a relative’s house. I fell off a picnic bench and broke my arm, and the relative’s dog, a miniature schnauzer that I had befriended, would not let anyone near me, running in circles protectively around me, as I cried and clutched my injured arm. It took some time for my dad to finally fend off the pooch in order to get me to the hospital…
So, when I was finally an “adult” I wanted to get a dog… but dogs are a lot of work, especially for a single guy in a small NY apartment. Eventually, I got a couple of cats, introduced to the finer facets of felines by my then fiancé. After we were married, and moved to Rockland County, the prospect of getting a dog seemed closer (but not close enough to hamper our dink status (Dink = Dual Income No Kids). Then we got pregnant, and life as we knew it, was going to change.
Diapers & Poop Scoopers
So, with my first son Zachary on the way, we figured the time was ripe to become dog owners. If we were going to be staying home more to be parents, we could care for a dog along with our son. Yes, Zach’s first sibling was Ling-Ling, a beautiful Chinese Shar-Pei. By the time Zach’s human siblings came along, Ling-Ling had unfortunately passed away (a long, sad story) but we were committed “dog people” and our kids grew up alongside canine kin including Logan (a great, Great Dane/Lab mix), Molly (a magnificent mutt), Chelsea (a gorgeous Golden Retriever), and over the years over a dozen dogs of all shapes, sizes and breeds. We learned many lessons in care and compassion from our furry friends, and I wouldn’t have had my kids grow up any other way. Our dogs have made us all better people.
Iris The One-Eyed Wonder
It has been a long time since I’ve had both a puppy and one of my kids in the house. My dogs are old – I’ve had them more than 12 years and as they’re all rescues I’m not quite sure how old they were when I got them… And, my kids are no longer kids (but I do know how old they are!) As young adults my kids have acquired their own pets as they’ve moved out and onward. They’ve only known a home with dogs, so it is not surprising that they’ve been continuing our course of canine companionship with dogs of their own.
My daughter recently moved back home (yay!) and she brought along her recently rescued puppy, Iris. Despite the fact she is a cyclops – yes, Iris lost an eye shortly before Olivia rescued her, Iris is a ball of energy. My formerly “empty nest” is now bustling as Iris (and my daughter) have brought back some welcome noise and activity to keep us older folk (me and my aged dogs) on our toes (or paws, as the case may be). Kids and dogs are a lot of work, but the love you get (and get to give) in return is well worth it. I am really happy to have both “girls” home.
How about you? Have pets played a role in your home?
Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 24, Ethan, 22 and Olivia, 21). He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast. You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads, Wunderkind! and Gape Into The Void podcasts.