My single greatest contribution to the Humane Society is to continue not adopting any animals. I suppose that sounds like a sort of cruelty, but hear me out.
My wife and I originally planned on adopting a dog shortly after our marriage. I had suggested a ferret, but my wife had wanted a particular sort of Labrador for years; I couldn’t deny her the chance. Instead, our landlord denied her the chance. When we finally found an apartment to rent, its lease prohibited pets. We were a little upset–we had already found our puppy–but not enough to choose homelessness.
Then, by the time we were able to move out of that apartment and into a house, we were only a couple of months away from welcoming a baby. Adopting a dog didn’t seem prudent under the circumstances, and that was even before we knew how exhausting and crazy our next year was going to be. I can only imagine getting confused one night, diapering the dog, and trying to walk the baby. Or, on a really tired night, asking the baby to diaper the dog while I went for a walk alone.
Since then we’ve occasionally returned to the topic and considered another try–my wife still wants her Labrador and our daughter adores all animals–but our daughter always reminds us why we shouldn’t. Below are the top six reasons we‘ve discovered:
#6 Finesse Isn’t Easy
Anyone who’s tried to change the diaper of a squirmy infant knows that babies are born with preternatural strength. Gentleness, like so many other things, has to be learned. Sometimes we wish our daughter would learn things in a different order. Given the choice for example, we probably would have moved gentleness ahead in the queue.
Instead she learned affection first. For those who haven’t experienced it, let me spoil the ending: affection without gentleness is just hitting. Our daughter slaps us around because she’s trying to love us. She also tries to love animals. Fortunately, the one time she got near enough to succeed, it was to an old and patient dog. It probably thought it was getting a massage.
#5 Puppies Aren’t Kites
One of the toys that my daughter received at her first birthday party was a classic little plastic puppy. When she pulls it along the ground by its leash, its wheels turn a mechanism inside it to make it bark and wag its tail. Unfortunately, while she understands the basic concept of how to make it bark, some of the details elude her. Generally, her preferred method of pulling doesn’t leave the little doggy on the ground for very long.
Really, its more of a bola than a pet. She’s actually a bit like the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi, save that she isn’t attacking Stormtroopers, she’s attacking her parents and what few valuable possessions they have left. I don’t imagine that a real dog would enjoy it any more than we do.
#4 Stillness Isn’t Aggression
Our daughter inherited her mother’s childhood tea table. We set it up in our living room, just like such things are always shown in movies. We even put her stuffed animals in the chairs as though they were waiting for a tea party. At first she seemed to enjoy it; then the violence started.
I’m not sure what her stuffed bunny did, but something about its manner of being inanimate offended our daughter deeply. She toddled over to it and clobbered it with all her tiny fisted rage. Imagine what might happen if a pet ever decided to rest peacefully: it might stumble across our daughter’s Hulk transformation trigger instead.
#3 Friends Aren’t Weapons
The Terrible Bunny Feud eventually subsided of course–toddlers aren‘t known for long memory–and our daughter even seemed to like her poor stuffed rabbit after a while. Then the story twisted. She also has a large stuffed sheep. Being similarly inanimate, it must have offended her as well. Maybe it reminded her to hate the bunny. I don’t know.
What I do know is that my lovely little girl picked up her stuffed rabbit and started beating the sheep with it. Maybe this was her method of killing two birds with one stone. Regardless, she’s strong enough to pick up a full grown dog; I don’t want her to have the chance to try.
#2 Pets Aren’t Experiments
My daughter might become a famous scientist one day; she has the method down. For example, one day we were at a friend’s house and that friend’s cat waddled over past our toddler. It was her first time seeing a cat, so we were all a bit curious how she’d respond. She didn’t cry or startle, which might have been better options actually. Instead she inspected the cat for a moment, reached out with her chubby little arm as though to pet it, then poked it sharply in the eye.
Naturally the cat hissed and jumped away. When our friend managed to convince it to give our daughter another chance, she poked it in the eye a second time. Ultimately, the results from her first experiment were reproducible; the cat hissed and jumped away again. As surprising as this may seem, it didn’t come back a third time.
#1 Animals Bite Back
Do I need to explain this one?
Clearly my wife’s Labrador ambitions are going to have to wait a few more years.