It was perhaps the most stressful five-day stretch I can recall since getting married and starting a family. It was such an epic fail on my part that as I tried to detail the events of that handful of days for readers of my column, my first draft topped out at something approaching 2,000 words, and it ended up becoming a three-part series.
We got a dog. My wife would be quick to correct that sentence by replacing "We" with "I." She's right. I'm the one who got caught up in the moment when an opportunity to surprise our sons with a dog was presented to me, and I'm also the one who knew only a few hours after the seven-month-old Jack Russell terrier ran into the house to the shocked delight of our boys that I was guilty of a massive, colossal blunder.
I was told things about the dog by the people trying to find it a home that were not true. He had no kennel training whatsoever; I was told otherwise. He literally tried to tear apart a dog ten times its size in our neighborhood and sent it whimpering to its front door, begging to get let inside where it would be safe from this wiry, vicious little beast; I was told he was meek and gentle around other animals. We were taking it for walks at 2 and 3 in the morning when he bloodied his paws after whining and squealing and scratching at its kennel door for hours; I was told he had no problem sleeping at least mostly through the night.
After a few days, it was surprisingly easy to convince our sons that the dog could not stay with us, and I was able to convince the people who had talked me into taking the dog that they had to take it back.
For some time after that fifth and final day with the dog, I don't even know if my feet touched the ground. The weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders and I felt light as a feather, relieved beyond measure.
So we'd never even consider going through something like that again, right? Wrong. While we haven't put an actual timeline on it – A few months? A couple years? – it seems like, as my wife and I have discussed the possibility of getting a dog, it's become a "when" proposition and not an "if."
Are we nuts? No, I don't think so, But we are definitely embarking on a new chapter in our lives, as empty-nesters, and we appear to be in the process of convincing ourselves that there is now a void in our lives, an empty space that no longer includes a jam-packed schedule of high school games and weekends at hotels and hockey rinks. We’re starting to buy into the notion that having a dog around might give us something to love, a commitment to fill up some of these wide swaths of available time that we suddenly have at our disposal.
Admittedly, it all sounds a bit cliché, that previous paragraph: Mom and dad miss their kids and want something else on which to shower affection. Clearly, we’re not the first parents with a big house to ourselves and a desire to respond to this major life change by tossing a demanding, furry monkey wrench into the smooth-running engine that is the snapshot of our current life scenario that allows us to basically do whatever we want whenever we want.
To our pleasant surprise, dog-owners and dog-lovers that we’ve alerted to our potential plans are hugely on board with what we’re contemplating. Thinking they would be exceedingly cautionary and try to throw a big bucket of cold water on our enthusiastic talk, they’re instead telling us we should take the leap, and that once we do we will have no regrets.
But, oh, this is a big one. This is a decision you don’t make lightly. That’s why we have to do it right this time, which means going about this process in essentially the opposite fashion I did years ago. We have to do research, we have to get the puppy trained properly. We have to be prepared.
But I can’t help but feel older and wiser and even a bit emboldened this time around. But I’m not going to kid myself: Talking about getting a dog isn’t even half the battle, it’s about 1% of the battle.
And what might paralyze us into potential inaction more than anything else? If we do eventually get a dog, we’re going to have to agree on a name.