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Giving In to the Urge to Own a Dog


Given time, even stubborn people can change their ways. It took 13 years and her son's imminent enrollment in kindergarten to change commentator Julie Zickefoose's outlook on owning a dog.


For 13 years, I fought the whole idea of getting a dog. My husband began working on me even before we got married, but I blocked his every parry. `You need a watchdog when you're here alone all day.' `I hate barky dogs.' He'd keep you company.' `And jump on the bed and leave hair all over the house.' `He can live outside in a doghouse.' `You know very well no dog of mine would live in a doghouse, as if we'd leave him out in a blizzard. Really.' `We'd heat the doghouse.' `Fire hazard.' `He'd keep the deer out of the gardens.' `And chase our wild turkeys.'

Round and round we went. We both knew, though, that as caretaker of everything in the house, I held the trump card. I'd be the one dishing out the dog chow and taking him to the vet, so I got to say if and when, if ever, we were ready for a dog.

Fast-forward 13 years. Our nine-year-old daughter is as leggy as a filly, and our five-year-old son starts kindergarten in the fall. I am dreading a house empty of his voice and presence. You already know where this is going. The soft, slidey warmth of puppy skin against my bare leg, a contented snore, I look down at the foot of the bed. It's a Boston terrier and he's not only in the house, he is in the bed and he has wound himself into every chamber of my heart. My kids dash to the front door when we come home, jockeying to be the first one to hug Chet Baker. My husband jumps out of his car in the evening holding out his arms, and Chet bounces like a black rubber ball to be caught in them.

Chet Baker sneaks up on the bed and hides two bones in my shoes. There is hair on the bedspread. He's afraid of deer, but he chases our wild turkeys. Lately, he has taken to sitting quietly in a chair at the dinner table looking expectantly, and a little sheepishly, at us.

Shopping for the kids' school supplies last weekend, I was arrested in midstride by the sight of a denim jacket. It was identical to mine but it was smaller and the arms pointed straight forward, a good fit for a quadruped. It hung on the end-cap display beckoning to me. Chuckling, I took it down and examined it--`He'd be so cute in it'--and hung it back up, took it down again and hung it up again. I wanted it badly, but I didn't want the rest of the world to know that I had finally morphed into the kind of person who would even consider dressing a dog up. Not me; I have my boundaries.

BLOCK: Commentator Julie Zickefoose, a writer and naturalist, lives in rural Whipple, Ohio.

ROBERT SIEGEL (Host): You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Julie Zickefoose