My husband and I were the very proud parents of a big, yellow labrador retriever named Sunny when we were first married. She was our baby before our human babies came along, and we loved her very much. We lost her to canine diabetes when she was only 5.
Several years later, we mustered up the strength to try life as pet owners again, but discovered our young son was severely allergic to pet dander. Even with medication, he develops heavy respiratory problems and breakouts on his skin if he comes in contact with dog or cat hair. His living space has to be clear of pet dander, especially where he sleeps.
We tried keeping outside dogs, but we were bringing allergens into the house on our clothes and shoes after caring for them, and it was difficult to keep them from rubbing up against him when we were outside. It also was unfair to him, because he wanted to play with them.
I was also a few months away from having our second child at the time, and I didn't think I could keep up with their quality of care. And I hated the thought of keeping them outside in the cold weather.
So we were disappointed, but we found the dogs a new home, and we have chosen not to have pets at all for now. I don't regret putting our son's health first, but there sure are a lot of things I miss about having a dog. And things I'm sad that he (and now his little brother) will miss out on. Such as:
1. Warmth at your feet like a fuzzy pair of slippers
There's nothing like a good dog at your feet at the end of the day. Many years ago, Sunny and I would often let out big long sighs at the end of the day and just be, as we sat down together to relax.
2. An automatic floor cleaner
If there's a dog in your house, you have a built in spot-cleaner and they won't miss a crumb. The same goes for dishes in the dishwasher. They offer up their own little pre-rinse cycle of sorts. The dog nose cycle.
3. Feeling safe on a long walk
I would often take long walks alone with the dogs, and I never felt more safe knowing my loyal friends would protect me if they needed to.
4. Getting outside every day for walks and fresh air
Every day rain or shine, I would go out for a walk and I was grateful for the daily exercise. It's also hard to be in a bad mood when you're out on a walk with a good dog.
5. Unconditional love in a fur coat
True blue, through and through. When I had a dog, I always had a companion that loved me to pieces no matter what, with big, excited loving eyes. Sometimes just knowing to be still in tender moments, and place their head on your lap.
6. Rides in the car, snorting air
We garnered lots of laughs as we pulled up next to people in traffic with a giant dog in the passenger seat. And if I ran an errand in a store Sunny couldn't go into, she would sit in the driver's seat. A hilarious sight upon returning to the car. Even more so than the air she would snort in and out as we drove down the road.
7. Trips to the pet store
I loved trips the pet store, letting them pick out their own bones after making the rounds to sniff and explore the entire store. I would try to skip the cat adoption center, that was always a bit of a complication.
8. Home security system at the foot of the bed
There's nothing like the peace of mind of a loyal protector at your side. Our own personal home security alarm, whose big, gentle nature could be camouflaged immediately with a loud, warning bark if something wasn't right.
9. Life-sized body pillow
Our 90-pound lab would start off on the floor, move up to the foot of the bed, and then try to wiggle her way between us. She was mighty, she was warm, and she was welcome there.
10. Unfailing welcoming committee
I really miss the welcoming committee. Hearing the sound of nails on the floor as she ran towards the door, and hearing her big, thumping tail against the wall as she was excited to greet us.
Photo: Audra Rogers
I grew up around dogs, and I think it's a wonderful part of childhood. There are a lot of things that our kids will miss out on.
Like laying on a dog like a big pillow while watching tv, or sharing ice cream with a dog on the porch. They won't feel that reassuring wet dog nose nudge on their hands while out on walks. They may never know what it's like to run wild and free in the yard with a dog alongside, or know the warmth and peace of having a dog sleep in their room.
Our son's health comes first, but there are a lot of things I miss about having a dog. And a lack of a possible relationship with my kids is probably what I'll miss the most.