A few days ago, the decision my late wife and I made to skip the joys and obligations of parenthood was a subject of my observations. Today, I am at least the temporary caretaker of a fifty-four pound lap dog named Bob; a dog that requires twice-daily feedings, at least two (usually, so far, more than two) walks per day, regular veterinary visits and the attendant expenses, unwavering attention, and more. And Bob has disrupted my life to some extent. My early morning solitude is a luxury of the past. Instead of getting up, making coffee, and meditating through my fingers, Bob urges me to take him outside. Now. He wants to walk. A more apt description is that he wants to run, his nose glued to the trail of some unknown target, but his desire is thwarted by having to drag an old man behind him.
As much as I like Bob, I wonder whether I have tricked myself into believing I need a companion? I wonder whether I just wanted a way to get through the loneliness? Yet my desire for a dog is not new. I have had a romanticized idea about dog companionship for a very long time. But I have not had a dog since I was in high school. I could have had a dog long, long ago. My wife would have been flexible about it; even though she did not embrace the idea, I am certain she would have been happy with a dog if it made me happy.
Do I really want a dog, or do I simply want the idea of how a dog at my side would make me feel? I suppose time will tell. But not too much time. I do not want a dog to become attached to me, only to be put back in the dog fostering system. The thing that really gives me second thoughts is the obvious fact that Bob wants room to run and frolic and play and chase real or imaginary quarry. I strongly suspect he had that kind of home before he was brought in to the HSV Animal Welfare League. I wish I knew more about his history. I thought, today, that he might have lived on or near Brookhill Ranch, where there’s lots of room to roam. I’m tempted to try to find out. But I’m not sure how. As much as I think Bob is a wonderful beast, I think he needs more room than I am able to give him. But if I’m his last best hope, then I’ll certainly give him a home.
Before I stumbled across an online listing for Bob, I was convinced the only dog for me would be a small (under 20 pound) dog; a friendly, easy-to-care-for animal that would quickly develop an attachment to me and vice versa. Bob is nearly three times the weight. He is fiercely powerful and dedicated to pull hard on his leash. He sits on command, but only when presented with a treat. He responds to a few other commands, but only in the right circumstances. He enjoys sitting in humans’ laps or sprawling on sofas.
I’m still leaning strongly toward keeping him, but I’m feeling quite guilty for doing it. He needs more space and energy than I am able to give him. Maybe if I bought some acreage and a mobile home…
My home insurance bill came in the mail today, taking my breath and much of my financial cushion away. The size of the bill makes me seriously consider going “naked,” also known as self-insuring. Of course, self-insuring assumes adequate liquid cash to rebuild and restore one’s home and possessions. I ask everyone this question: do you have enough ready cash to rebuild your house and refurnish it with everything you have bought and kept for the last fifty years? If so, I applaud and admire and very nearly worship you. I don’t have that kind of cash sitting around collecting dust (or even interest). I will not go naked. I will pay the bill and plan to set aside even more each month so I have what it takes to pay the bill next year without blinking. My wife took care of this stuff until now; she provided the pump for the financial pipeline for our two-person family. I contributed gas and appreciation and recognition, but I did not get very involved. Now, I am. With each property tax bill and insurance statement and credit card statement, I am becoming more miserly.
I went to be early last night, about 9:30, and awoke late, around 6:00. Despite the long hours of sleep last night I am so tired I can barely keep my eyes open. This has been something of a regular thing for several days, though, before I got Bob, so I cannot blame him. The other day, I fell asleep at my computer in the afternoon. I awoke and saw the computer clock read 6:27. I was confused; I thought I had slept late and that it was 6:27 in the morning. Maybe I am aging faster than I realized. Whatever. I need a nap.