We’re Divorced and Our Kid Wants a Dog. So . . . Who Gets the Dog?

dog and womanSo, I might get a dog. Or my ex-husband might get a dog. Or both of us might get dogs. I don’t know right now, and couldn’t give you odds on any of those possibilities.

Our 8-year-old wants a dog. A lot. He’s been asking for one for years, and it was the only thing he asked Santa for this year. He loves our cats, but he really wants a dog. When we go over to hang out with family friends who have way too many dogs he spends hours just hanging out with the teacup Chihuahua and the golden retriever-y mutt. He wants an animal he can talk to and snuggle, who sits still for more loving affection than the cats do and is more likely to participate in his projects and schemes than a cat will.

I’ll admit that I’m tempted by the idea of a dog, too. I’ve never had one, but I’ve loved some dogs. A few friends of mine have Italian greyhounds, and they’re just so smart and funny and loyal and sweet. I’ve known a couple of standard Poodles who were aces. And a bunch of mutts that had huge hearts and delightful personalities. I could use more snuggling in my life.

I also wonder if a dog could diffuse the tension between my two cats, who hate each other. Alex, my main cat man, is smart and fierce, loyal and loving and sweet to me. He adores me, puts up with the kids’ affections, and loathes our other cat Blossom. Blossom is a dopey calico. She’s sweet but meddlesome, and kind of a jerk sometimes. Alex has nothing but scorn for her, and Blossom resents him. All day they hang out in uneasy détente on different pieces of furniture, and then every night at 10:30 they stage a feline lucha libre. I wonder if adding a dog to the mix—one that both cats would get along with, or at least not hate—would break the gridlock between them and let them each relax.

But then . . . last week it was -37 degrees with the wind chill here one day. Negative thirty-seven degrees Fahrenheit. I can’t imagine taking a dog out to poo in that weather. The cats and people just stayed inside and pooped in our respective receptacles, but a dog would have to go out. And what would happen if I went away overnight? Cats take care of themselves, if you leave them food and water. But dogs have to be walked. Every day. And their poo has to be disposed of. Every day.

I wonder if this is the same calculation the kids’ dad is going through. Is he weighing the pros and cons and wondering what breed and if he really wants to do this? Or is he just thinking he’ll get a dog when he moves someplace where there isn’t a “no pets” clause in the lease?

We have a co-parenting relationship that involves talking about everything ad nauseum: how much the kids get for a lost tooth, summer activities, winter boots, which books are fine and which ones they need to hold off on reading until they’re a little older, who’s taking them to Third Grade Movie Night at school, what we’re serving for their birthday parties, etc. And yet we haven’t talked about whether either of us is getting a dog, except as vague possibilities. I think it’s because neither of us inadvertently wants to call dibs by bringing it up.

I can just see it. I mention casually, “So I’ve been thinking about getting a dog, and the kids and I have been talking about what size d–” and he says, “No backs!” and that’s it. I’m stuck with picking up another creature’s poo in a plastic bag every day for the next 15 years.

So neither of us is mentioning it. But we can’t hold out forever against the passionate and reasoned pleas of the 8-year-old. Someone is going to crack. Or both of us will. But when? And who? Join me here on Dogwatch 2014, as we wait tensely to see who gets a dog for the 8-year-old.