One Dog is Quite Enough For Me, Thank You
Every now and then, I see a post on social media from a dog owner who wants to rehome the dog. To “rehome” a pet is to find a new home for the pet, passing on the responsibilities to someone else. Taking care of a dog can often be a challenge, and I have to admit that on rare occasions, when I’m walking our dog, Lulu, in freezing weather, the thought of rehoming her has crossed my mind.
But it’s always a fleeting thought. I never bring it up with my wife, Malathi. She would never rehome Lulu, not without first considering rehoming me. Given a choice between Lulu and me, my wife would choose the family member who never disagrees with her.
Malathi loves animals, especially dogs. When she hears—through an email list at her workplace—that someone wants to rehome their dog, she immediately sends me a message. Sometimes she asks, “Can we please get this dog?” Other times, she tries to be assertive: “I want this dog!”
My response is always the same: “Okay, but only if they’re willing to take Lulu in exchange.”
I am kidding about this, of course. I’m very fond of Lulu and would never trade her for anything that doesn’t have wheels.
A few months ago, Malathi wanted to adopt a St. Bernard that someone was trying to rehome. She persuaded me to accompany her on a visit to the St. Bernard’s home to conduct a dog interview of sorts. She was hoping I would fall in love with the dog. But this was never going to happen, because any dog I met would be known as “second dog to walk and pick up after.” And for me to fall in love with “second dog,” something incredible would need to happen, such as “second dog” playing Beethoven’s “Sonata No. 29” on a piano.
Short of that, I wouldn’t be taking “second dog” home with me. In the case of the St. Bernard, there was no hint of any piano talent, just the prospect of having a dog as big as a piano.
This dog was indeed huge. Lulu is fairly big herself—she’s a Siberian husky—but the St. Bernard was on another level. Taking him home would be like taking home “second, third and fourth dogs combined.”
Thankfully, Malathi didn’t push me too hard to adopt the St. Bernard, perhaps realizing that, between him and Lulu, there’d be no room for her on our couch.
But she still wishes she could get a second dog, still wishes she had not married a one-dog man. That’s why I offer this advice to all couples: before you get married, make sure you discuss not only how many children you’d like to have, but also how many dogs, cats, chickens and pigs. Otherwise, you are just setting yourself up for disappointment.
Think of poor Yusuf in Bourem, Mali. He wants to have 10 kids, but his wife, Amina, is quite happy with 9.
“He keeps pestering me,” she complained one day to her friend Mariam. “‘Just one more kid. Just one more kid.’”
“You should be thankful!” said Mariam. “At least he isn’t saying, ‘Just one more wife!'”
“That’s true,” Amina said. “On the other hand, one more wife would be useful when the kids are grown. I may need help milking 10 goats.”
Amina may have been convinced, but persuading me to get a second dog is a different story. I have learned, through countless walks and “business pick-ups,” how much responsibility a single dog requires. And I also learned, back in first grade, how to multiply by two. Malathi, of course, tells me that two dogs would not involve twice as much responsibility as one dog. I can take them for walks at the same time, she says. But I have seen people walking two dogs at the same time, and they usually look twice as stressed as me.
I should mention that my wife doesn’t just want a second dog—she also wants a cat. However, I’m allergic to cats.
I probably should have mentioned that before we got married.