“I have something important I want to talk to you about,” Tawn said with a look of seriousness. “I think we should get a dog.” Trying to be a more effective communicator than usual, I decided to listen instead of immediately listing the dozens of reasons why getting a dog was a bad idea. So I settled back into the couch and tried very hard to have an open mind.
The end result of the discussion was that we ended up getting a dog. Despite my misgivings – we live in a no-pets condo, and a small one at that; our schedules don’t allow much time for a dog; while I love dogs I don’t want to be responsible for one – I told Tawn that if he could address the concerns that I felt, we could get a dog.
A week later, Tawn drove to a breeder across the river to pick up an 8-month old King Charles Cavalier. She had just been flown in from another breeder in Malaysia the night before and Tawn had been talking to the Thai breeder for a few weeks before asking me if we could get a dog.
I arrived home in the middle of the afternoon to find them in the bathroom: a sad, soaked pup shivering on the marble floor as Tawn tried to blow dry her hair. Even though she had never met me, she readily jumped into the relative safety of my arms. Her wet, floppy ears quickly soaked my shirt sleeves.
We sat on the patio for the next hour or so, the ceiling fan stirring a gentle breeze as I held the dog, whom we named Kiki, in a towel and tried to dry her fur. Her shaking stopped and she would doze for short intervals but quickly awoke at any movement or sound.
After a trip to the local pet store to buy some supplies for Kiki, Tawn had to head out for an event. I had some cooking to do in preparation for a dinner the next day. Kiki sat in her basket for a while and then in her kennel, watching me as I cooked. Even though she could see me, she would frequently bark, calling for my attention.
I would let her out and try to keep an eye on her as I cooked. Three times there were accidents on our carpet. Not being experienced caring for dogs, I quickly Googled for advice and tried to respond to the accidents without anger, instead carrying her to some newspapers on the patio whenever I though she might need to go.
Tawn returned home, excited at the prospect of a dog waiting for him. She still seemed a little timid, afraid perhaps that he would whip out the hair dryer once again. We put her in the kennel several times, leaving the room for an increasing length of time. She would yip and yelp quite quickly and we were worried that the neighbors would be disturbed by the noise.
Finally, when it was time for bed, I decided we should take some additional online advice: to help puppies adjust, place their kennel in the bedroom at night so they can sense that you are nearby. This seemed a reasonable step but about once every hour or so, Kiki would wake up and call for us. Finally, after the third time, Tawn took the kennel into the living room and stayed with her while I fell back asleep.
In the morning, I found him lying on the couch with Kiki in a basket nearby. With a voice filled with regret, Tawn told me that he had spent the night up with her. While doing so, he had evaluated his decision and said that he had probably miscalculated how much time and energy it would take to care for a new dog. He proposed that we call the breeder and return Kiki.
Again trying to be a good communicator, I listened, acknowledged his points, and let him know that I would support him either way. If he wanted to keep Kiki, we would find a way to make it work. If he wanted to return her, I would understand that, too.
In the end, we put Kiki in her basket and drove back to the breeder’s that morning. Kiki was subdued, probably from a combination of exhaustion and anxiety. Handing her back to the maid at the breeder’s house, I couldn’t hold back my tears.
The next day, the breeder posted a picture of Kiki (whose real name is something fancy like Lady Penelope) sleeping peacefully with her sister, along with a comment about how happy she seemed to be to be back at home. That helped reassure Tawn that we had made the right decision.
Looking back, I think it would have been possible to make Kiki a part of our lives. It would have taken a lot of work over several weeks, but it could have been done. But I also think that we made the best decision, because a dog (especially a lap dog) really requires time and attention. It isn’t fair to not be prepared to give them what they need to thrive.