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BERRY: Why I can't bear to bring another dog into my life

• Aug 4, 2016 at 2:00 PM

For the past couple of years, my daughters, Evien and Maggie, have been persistently asking me for a dog. Thus far, my response has been a flat-out "No."

"But why not?" they pathetically whine.

I say, "Because you already have a cat and a hamster that you never pay any attention to."

"But a dog is different." they plead.

"No it's not. I'll be the one feeding it, playing with it and walking it. And I'll be the one picking up its poop."

"Aw, you're just a meany."

"The answer's still 'No.'"

Meany or not, the thought of picking up freshly laid dog feces makes me a little queasy, even if it's done with a gloved hand. It's kind of like eating an overripe banana; it still tastes like a banana, but the texture is oh-so unpleasant.

At first, the girls would have settled for any old rescued mutt with a moist nose and a wagging tail. Over time, they both agree that they want a Yorkshire terrier, and they want to name it "Killer." My wife did a little research on the breed and said, "Oh, I don't know. Yorkies are awfully expensive."

Maggie said, "Maybe we could get one from Noah Project."

I said, "Nobody drops off a Yorkshire terrier at Noah Project unless it's possessed by the devil."

The girls know my stance on dogs, yet they still try to bait me. "Aw, look at that cute little puppy," Evien says.

"My eye doctor says I have K-9 exfoliation antitis," I say.

"What's that?"

"I can't see dogs."

"C'mon, Dad, look at the puppy that man is holding."

"Sorry. Looks like he's cradling a bundle of air to me."

Evien stomps off.

Sometimes Maggie will bring up images of Yorkshire terriers on her mom's iPhone. "Aw, look at these cute dogs," she says.

I bend down, peer through my bifocal, and say, "Looks like a blank screen to me."

"Oh, Dad, you're being ridiculous!"

Ridiculous or not, I don't want a dog. The reasons I gave my daughters for not wanting a dog are legitimate. However, they're not the real reason I don't want a dog. The true reason is that I have a sordid history with the canine species.

When I was a boy, one day my dad asked, "Would you like a dog?" Not wanting to disappoint my father, I shrugged my shoulders and said, "I guess so."

The next day, he brought home a solid-brown Chihuahua and said his name is Pancho. In my way of thinking, if you name an animal, that means he's yours. But my dad said I was responsible for feeding, watering and playing with the tiny creature.

Pancho looked like an oversized rat to me. Nonetheless, I played with him — but, being a boy, I was far too rough with him. Over time, Pancho grew to hate me. He would growl and nip at me whenever I got near him, so my dad gave him away to a co-worker.

Within weeks, my dad brought home a shepherd puppy and said his name is Shep. Dad built a little A-frame dog house for him and kept him chained up in the backyard. I got along well enough with Shep, even though his name reminded me of one of the Three Stooges.

One evening, I brought Shep his supper, but he didn't come out of his house. I gave him a small shove to rouse him, and his rigor-mortised body skidded across the wooden floor like a scrub brush. I jumped back in horror. My dad buried Shep in the backyard.

Shortly thereafter, dad brought home a collie pup and said his name is Prince. Prince and I had some good times running in the yard, playing catch and soaking up the summer sunshine together. But mostly I remember feeding him his evening meal.

We bought Prince a new dog house and kept him chained up in the yard. His huge bags of dog food were kept in the shed. Whenever I'd reach in to scoop out a dish full of food, several mice would hop out of the bag and scurry under the floorboards.

One summer afternoon, I got a phone call (this was before caller ID), obviously from a neighbor who simply said, "You better make your dog stop barking or I'm going to shoot it." Then he hung up. While I was outside trying to calm Prince down, I suddenly realized what happened to Shep.

Midway through junior high, my friends started to take prominence over my life. At the same time, I discovered that girls were not the cootie-infested taboo that I'd been conditioned to believe. One day, my dad said, "If you're not going to pay any attention to that dog anymore, we might as well take him to the pound so they can find him a good home."

On a Saturday morning, my dad and I drove Prince to the dog pound. I led him in on a leash and Prince freaked out, clawing at the smooth tile and sprawling several times across the floor. I patted his head, finally calming him, and an official led us through a doorway to a round vessel resembling an industrial clothes dryer at a laundry mat. Once inside the cylinder, Prince turned and looked at me with his sad, trusting eyes, then the official closed the door.

In the car, it dawned on me what I'd just done. Near tears, my dad said, "I'll go back and check on him."

A few minutes later, dad came back to the car. It's the only time I remember my dad ever apologizing for anything. "I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't know they were going to do that."

I cried all the way home.

In a few short years, I'd turned a Chihuahua into a pit bull, placed a shepherd before a firing squad and sent a collie to the gulag. I decided then I was through with dogs.

In a few short years, Evien and Maggie will discover boys, learn to drive, get involved in extracurricular high school activities and move away to college. I envision a little Yorkshire terrier sitting and waiting by the door for the girls to return with the same sad, trusting eyes that Prince had when I led him to his demise.

I just wish my daughters could understand I'm not cold-hearted. You see, I just can't do that to poor little Killer.

— By Grant Berry, Tribune community columnist

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