The debate: Is getting a dog a good idea when you have little kids?

This husband and wife disagree on whether it's a terrific—or terrible—idea to add a new pet to their growing family this winter.

No.
By Emily Senger, mom of one

Nope, we’re not getting a dog. Not this Christmas. Not next year. Not ever.

We have a two-year-old and another baby on the way this winter. Our toddler hasn’t asked for a dog yet, but my stance is already a point of disagreement between my dog-loving husband, Graham (see his arguments below) and me. He thinks a dog would complete the family, but I just see one more mess that I would surely have to handle.

I work from home part-time. My husband is in the military and works full-time with unpredictable hours. Sure, I would be around most of the time to train a puppy and give the new addition the attention it needs. But our parenting and child care arrangements also make me the household poop-cleaner-in-chief. More often than not, I’m the one washing potties, wiping bums and trying to get that mysterious brown stain out of my kid’s jeans. By February, we’ll have a newborn again, and with that comes eight to 10 diapers per day—this is not an exaggeration. The thought of cleaning up another creature’s feces is enough to make me panic. Ditto for all the dirt, fur and grime a pooch would track through the house every single day.

My reluctance to add man’s best friend to our family goes beyond messes—with small kids, it’s a safety issue. Just ask my husband how he got that scar on his nose. (Spoiler alert: He was a mischievous three-year-old wielding a toy carrot and the dog didn’t appreciate where little Graham tried to insert said carrot.)

As my daughter starts using more and more words to communicate, I know she’ll ask for a dog at some point. Grandma and Grandpa have a dog. One of her uncles and two of her aunties have dogs. This means there are plenty of pups in the extended family for us to borrow to play catch, take for a walk or chase around the park. Best of all, when that borrowed dog stops for a squat, it’s up to someone else to pick up the poop.

Yes.
By Graham Kallos, dad of one

Some of my best memories revolve around my childhood pets, which is why I’d love to add a dog to our family. I want my kids to start making similar memories.

Let’s get the Plastic Carrot Incident my wife, Emily, alluded to above out of the way first. Yes, when I was three years old, I tried to “disappear” a plastic carrot into an orifice belonging to the back end of our beloved family dog, a Boston terrier named Pilgrim.

Unbelievably, four years later, my younger brother, at roughly the same age, attempted the same manoeuvre. We both bear identical facial scars bestowed by Pilgrim.

When not being assaulted by toddlers, Pilgrim was a sweet dog who instinctively adopted my two younger siblings and me as though we were her own pups. She was a loving, furry member of the family who would protect us from the monsters under the bed and suffered silently through hours of playtime. When we were sad, she would be there to hug; when we were happy, she would jump and spin with all three of us.

It wasn’t all roses and unicorns. I learned some of my first curse  words from listening to my dad string expletives together after stepping, barefoot, on one of Pilgrim’s freshly laid landmines on his way to the kitchen to get his morning coffee.

While on the subject of poop, let’s address my wife’s concerns about adding to her workload. I’d argue I’m already the family’s designated officer in charge of crap, with a specialization in diaper crisis management. The occasional canine deposit is nothing compared to the horrors I have witnessed as a dad.

Entrusting kids to care for another living being teaches them a lot. Pilgrim lived to be 14. Cataracts clouded her vision, she lost her teeth, and her farts took on a legendary capacity to clear half the house. But the love and care she’d given our family was reciprocated. Her companionship, her bug-eyed smile, and even my scar from the carrot incident still bring up feelings of warmth and fondness all these years later.

A version of this article appeared in our December 2016 issue, titled “Is getting a dog a good idea when you have little kids?” pg. 96.

Read more:
4 things to consider before getting a family pet
New Dr. Seuss book: What Pet Should I Get?
Beat the Monday blahs with baby and animal BFFs

No Comments