My son has a new puppy, an adorable mixed breed with a face that melts your heart. As soon as I saw a photo, I felt that old tug -- memories of that new-puppy smell, the cuddles, the face-washings, the fun of selecting a breed, the expansive feeling of embarking on a new adventure with a new friend.
And then I remembered the crate training, the middle-of-the-night whinings, the vet bills, the chewed furniture and stained carpets. It's definitely as much work as having a new human baby, the first little while. I've gone through it with a lot of dogs in my lifetime. I look at Maple curled in his basket like an apostrophe, Brio flopped on the couch with his legs dangling over the edge like a spider plant, and even though my heart swells with love and memories, I think I can say with confidence that these pets will be my last ones. They hold a special spot in my life; Brio is especially irreplaceable, I'm not sure why. But he's the best dog I've ever had, and there's nothing I enjoy more than when he settles his head on my lap with a sigh. But I'm getting tired. I'm reaching a stage in my life where my motherhood responsibilities are waning, and I want to be free to travel at the drop of a hat without worrying about kennels and sitters. (And my long-suffering husband is allergic to Brio but has been heroic about it. He needs a well-deserved break from histamines.) So by the time my life fully reaches that empty-nest stage, the dogs will be gone, and I think I will be ready to let pet-ownership go.
It will be a weird adjustment, not having a dog around. I've had pets all my life, and other than brief intervals between losing one and getting another, I've always had a dog. I believe all kids, all people, should have animals in their lives. They enhance it in ways I can't define; their love is different from humans'. And I am different because of them.