Cady Gray's class took a field trip to the recycling center and a local park today. I wasn't aware until she was telling me about the excursion that our city animal shelter was a part of the itinerary. After excitedly telling me what her friends' favorite dogs were, and the characteristics of the dogs she like best, she finally came out with it: "Do you think we could ever have a dog?"
My family certainly had dogs when I was Cady Gray's age, and intermittently throughout my upbringing. Now I wonder what impulse led them to get a dog in the first place. Our first dog, a poodle, predated me and died of old age when I was still small. I think it was a few years before we got our next dog, a Chihuahua mutt, and it was probably at my urging; I certainly know that it was thought of as my dog. Then the final dog of my youth was acquired after we moved out to a more expansive property out of town -- a good-natured, galumphing Irish setter.
Cady Gray is just four months into her very first official pet (other than the occasional caterpillar or minnow) -- a betta fish that she cares for very well. But as I"ve said before, it's hard for me to imagine adding a dog or cat, no matter how small and unobtrusive, to this little house.
When Cady Gray asked her question from the backseat, before we could even formulate an answer, Archer piped up, "I don't want a dog. I wouldn't like that." It's rare for him to have such a definite opinion, and even rarer for him to express it categorically. We heard out his reasons (dogs might bark all the time like when you're trying to watch a TV show that you really like), and knew that underneath is a fear of dogs jumping on him that goes pretty deep. So we explained to Cady Gray that right now our house is too small for a dog, and it's not OK with Archer, but things could change.
Her eyes welled up, but when I asked if she understood, she nodded tearfully. I contorted myself from the driver's seat to hold her hand. A few minutes later she interjected a comment into a discussion of Governor of Poker, and I knew everything was all right for the moment. As for most families, the pet issue is not a one-time thing; we'll be revisiting it, I have no doubt.