Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I'd Rather Have One Child Than Three Dogs

There's an article in this month's Toronto Life on raising kids in Toronto. Katrina Onstad, the authoress, describes the conflict between urban parents and urban non-parents. The problem seems to be that the parents keep winning.

And the battleground: the leash-free dog park.

"What about our kids?" the dog-parents ask about their dog-children (literally, their dogs). "Don't they deserve a place to play? Don't they deserve to be happy?" Of course they do. After all, we want them to grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted, productive adults.

I used to say I never wanted children. But now with two of my exes pregnant by other men, I've adopted a different attitude: Given the choice between having a family and not having a family, I choose the family. Hell, I'll adopt a kid. I'm only twenty-four, but now I'm starting to think about the metaphorical significance of my watch.

And here's why: I can't and won't be a thirty- or forty-something with a clean house and one, two, or three well-dressed dogs. Toronto's divided itself into two camps: the dog parents and the real parents. The real parents, even given their faults, are the ones I've sided with. The dog parents--whether they be empty-nesters, singles, or just affected--need to stop. Stop what? Just stop. You've taken a dangerous step by naming your dog Parker. A dangerous, awful step.

A few months ago a Toronto man named Bert Clark lost his dog Huckleberry. He offered a fifteen-thousand-dollar reward for the dog's return, and the dog came back home. That was nice; I had no problem with a man paying to be reunited with his dog. But it went a little deeper. Clark, when interviewed, seemed to describe a much deeper, somewhat metaphysical, relationship with Huckleberry that verged on filial, parental, AND matrimonial bonds.

Clark planned his day around Huckleberry. He bought his house with Huckleberry. He went places Huckleberry wanted to go. He bought food Huckleberry liked. He clothed Huckleberry. Huckleberry slept in Clark's bed.

The dog wasn't his friend, it was his wife and son.

I don't think there's any good way to age as a single. You either do it with class and a helluva lot of money, or you become lonely and slightly crazed. The class-money option seems like the right way, but it probably only means a more expensive dog. No single person over thirty-five is safe from (imminent) dog ownership.

Parenting a child in the city may be tough, but so's finding a parking spot. If a person with a stroller is walking toward me, I'll get out of the way. Why? Because I'm not sure the infant should be straddling the curb. I'm pretty sure your dog can handle it. I don't care how new his/her shoes are or how hard white suede is to clean.

That said, by all means have a dog. I used to have a dog. Dogs are great friends. Just don't come back from the Humane Society and tell your dad he's a new grandfather.

Last week I was in the car with my brother-in-law and my five-year-old niece. He was taking her to McDonald's, and I was going to the liquor store--beside McDonald's. "What do you want to listen to?" my brother-in-law asked. "Bob Weir and Ratdog." I didn't say that; she did.

But an ironic child is still better than a dog. And a know-it-all kid? Still better than two dogs. A wise-beyond-her-years child actor? Well...what kind of dogs?

1 comment:

metro mama said...

I had to give some owners of leash-free sweater-wearing dogs the stink-eye in the park just yesterday. Assholes.

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