How Many Pets Is Too Many?

May 18th, 2013

My husband and I agree on practically everything. Seriously. We’re very similar people. When we go out to restaurants, we order the exact same meal more often than not. We see eye to eye on the best way to raise our children–it’s not that either of us knows the answers, but we have the same instincts and present a united front. Our tastes align, and we have no problem decorating a house together or buying art or anything like that.

But when it comes to pets . . .

Yeah, that’s what we’ll divorce over.

I walk into a pet shelter, and I see a bunch of babies who need homes–sweet and scared little lovebugs, who are lonely and caged and need to be rescued. By me.

Rob walks into a shelter and sees a bunch of eating-and-pooping machines that, given the chance, would destroy our lovely house and yard and drive him crazy with their barking or scar him with their claws.

The kids tend to be more on my side, or at least the three younger ones are. Over and over again, we end up in a scenario where the four of us are begging to take home some little fuzzpot that’s won our hearts with a look or a wag or a nuzzle, and Rob’s moaning and shaking his head and reminding us how much work and mess another pet would be.

“Why do I always have to be the bad guy?” he complains when we’re all pouting because he’s nixed some little furry angel.

Because you’re mean, I want to say, but don’t. It’s not actually true. It just feels true when our hearts are broken.

“If it weren’t for me, our house would be overrun,” he says. “You wouldn’t have any time to work and there would be piles of poop everywhere. You need me to say no.”

Okay, maybe he has a point. And I can’t really complain that he won’t let us have any pets, since at the moment we have two dogs, two cats, and two dwarf aquatic frogs. He genuinely likes our old yellow lab, partially because Harvey has never had an accident in our house, and partially because even pet-phobic guys seem to have a soft spot for manly dogs like labs and retrievers.

“It’s the little yappy dogs I hate,” he says. And after we had a disastrous run with a little yappy dog who seemed to feel it was unseemly to defecate or urinate outside, and who barked incessantly at our oldest son, Rob said “No more little dogs. Never again.” (Don’t worry: we found a wonderful home for that little dog–he and a friend fell in love and he’s living it up as a spoiled single child.)

But my daughter volunteers at an animal rescue organization. Every week, she goes to the farmer’s market, where she helps take care of the pets and tries to find them new homes. A few weeks ago, a small dog found her way into Annie’s lap and stayed there for the entire morning. When we arrived to pick Annie up, she carried the dog to the car, looking hopeful. I could feel Rob tensing next to me, and before she’d even said a word, he was shaking his head. “No,” he said. “Just no.” Crestfallen, Annie ┬áreturned the dog to one of the other volunteers.

The next week, “Mandy” crawled into her lap again. Annie sent me photos. I felt my heart yearning–those big brown eyes, that sweet little furry cuddly body . . .

“Never,” said Rob. “I’ve learned my lesson. No more little dogs. Not ever. Never, never, never.”

Mandy has been living with us for almost two weeks now. Her name is now “Lula,” after Rob’s favorite condiment, Cholula.

How exactly did we overcome his resistance? I’m not sure. Some combination of “Just on a trial basis” and “It’s Mother’s Day,” I think. Lula has wisely been an angel since the moment she arrived, completely house-trained, calm, quiet, and friendly. I can’t say Rob’s exactly happy about this addition to our lives, but he does seem to have gone from openly resentful to begrudgingly admitting that “she’s sweet,” so I think we’re good.

Of course, if she starts having accidents or turning yappy, I’ve already assured him that we’ll figure out a solution–he shouldn’t have to feel tense or unhappy in his own home.

I’m sure he can find somewhere else to live. And a second wife who’ll agree with him on this whole pet thing.

What's not to like?

What’s not to like?