About a year after we got married, Jon and I decided to embark on a new adventure together: dog-rearing. Bota was our first introduction to caring for another living being, and we kind of wanted to prove to ourselves that we could hack it with a dog before we tried it with a human.
For a good long while, Bota was the center of our nuclear family universe. Fast forward four years (and two children) later, and she has…well…succumbed to a new position in the family. To illustrate, this is how I found Bota when I entered the kitchen yesterday afternoon:
The poor dog puts up with a lot. In fact, I think being the family dog must be one of the hardest jobs out there. So, in honor of Bota and all of the other hard-working family pets out there, I offer you a this letter. It is a letter from Bota to other dogs who might be considering the role of man’s (and childrens’) best friend. Enjoy. Or don’t. Just don’t put any more pool accessories the dog’s head.
Congratulations! You have accepted the greatest calling of your life, that of a family dog. You are entering the ranks of the brave, the loyal, the always-faithful, the tough-skinned and the ever-patient. This is a role that comes with much honor, but with it comes much hard work. I want to encourage you in this journey but, to be fair, I feel I should also enlighten you about the road you are now facing.
You have already enjoyed your golden years. When you’re having a rough day, just remember how good you’ve had it up until now. You had one–maybe two–owners. You were their roommate, their confidante and their companion. You were treated not as an animal, but with the dignity and respect that is sometimes reserved for other humans. Actually, you were treated more like Hollywood royalty. With your frequent spa days and daily trips to the dog park, you often wondered how you got so lucky. Your “parents” bought you gifts on holidays and birthdays and for no reason at all. They planned puppy playdates for you in parks. They arranged doggy resort stays for you if they had to work late or leave town for the weekend. They would even let you ride in the front seat and buy you your own meal at the drive-thru.
Life was good.
But now they have children–HUMAN children–and life will be different. The love and attention that used to be solely yours will now be shared with the human children. Do not be discouraged, though, because there will still be plenty of love to go around.
The human children will actually enjoy many of the same things you do! They like chasing after balls and will even try throwing balls for you sometimes (although most of them will end up in a bush or over a fence where you will never ever be able to find them again).
The human children also enjoy exploring. They will be happy to tromp through a river with you and dig in the mud. They may even find a nice stick to throw for you (if they start hitting you with the stick, though, just run them over and pretend like you were playing a game).
The human children will create hilarious games for you to play together. My favorite is where they tell me there’s a squirrel in a tree–EVEN THOUGH THERE’S NOT!–just so I can run and jump and claw at the tree like I’m insane or something. It’s awesome.
They will think it’s cute to do things like color you a poster for your birthday, even though you can’t read and don’t understand the point of birthdays.
If you’re really lucky, your owners will feel bad that they’ve completely neglected you for the last year and will even bake you a cake for your birthday. They won’t let you eat it, though, because it’s made of chocolate (hypocrites).
The human children will love you so much that they’ll even dress you up so you can look like them. Too bad they all look like homeless pirates.
When the human children are away from you, they will miss you like crazy. In fact, they will insist on employing modern technology to get some face-to-face time with you (because you’re that awesome).
It’s tough work being the family dog, and at the end of the day you’ll probably be exhausted. It’s alright to take a moment for yourself.
Because, at the end of the day, your job is one of the most important ones out there. You play with and entertain and endure, and love your family. The daily walks and the gourmet dog meals may be long gone (although, kids are a great resource for extra treats at the dinner table), but you have something so much better. You have a family.
For better or worse.
With my enduring love,