There is bright red circle around today’s date on the Dog Life 2021 calendar hanging above my cluttered desk. The date marks one week before my tenth birthday. Today begins the annual dog debate with my parents. I have dreamed of owning a dog ever since I was old enough to spell d-o-g. I pull my purple World’s Greatest Dog Lover sweatshirt over my head and grab the Why I Should Own a Dog list from my desk. My list of reasons has grown longer as I have grown taller. Maybe this is the year they will say yes to my request, I think as I close the door to my bedroom behind me.
My Mom has made chocolate chip pancakes this morning for breakfast. My all-time favorite. She even has the spray can whipped cream to squirt on top. I know she is only trying to throw me off balance by being nice. She knows what day it is. She knows I will be ready for the annual dog debate. I wait until both my mom and dad have finished their first cup of coffee before I ask.
“Can I get a dog this year for my birthday? Last year you said I wasn’t old enough.”
“You weren’t. A dog is a lot of responsibility.”
“Did you remember to put your bike in the garage last night?”
“Uh, I think so. I promise I will feed him and walk him.”
“Buying, feeding and caring for a dog is expensive.”
“I will do extra chores around the house. I'll ask neighbors for jobs, too.”
“You can’t even pick up your own dirty clothes from the floor and put them in the hamper.”
“A dog offers great protection.”
“We have a state of the art security system on the house.”
“A dog makes a great companion.”
“You have brothers for that.”
“A dog will help me get exercise.”
“ What about your bike, your skates, your scooter? Use those if you want to exercise.”
My parents and I will go back and forth all week like this. When my parents finally exhaust all of their reasons why I can’t get a dog, the debate ends. The dog debate always ends with four words. The four words every kid dreads hearing. The four words that signal it is all over. No amount of pleading, tantrums or tears will persuade parents to change their mind.
“Please, please can I have a dog this year for my birthday?”
“No, you may not have a dog.”
“Because I said so.”
Discouraged and disappointed once again, I race to my bedroom and slam the door shut. Oh, how I dislike those four words. I swear, when I am a parent my children will never, never hear me utter them. The mound of stuffed dogs on my bed stare back up at me with blank eyes.
The sign on the large brick building reads Paws Placement. We are at the right place. My two excited little boys jump out of the the van as soon as I turn off the ignition. The sound of playful barking can be heard as we enter through the front door. We are greeted with a bright smile by Megan, a volunteer at the placement center.
“ Hello. Are you Mrs. Blake?,” Megan asks.
“Yes, I am. Hello.”
“Where are the dogs? Where are the dogs?,” Tristan and Declan shout, jumping up and down like they are bouncing on a trampoline.
“Come with me out back. The dogs are in the play yard,” Megan says.
There are dogs of every age, breed and size romping in the doggy play yard. The boys and I stand watching the dogs as they run through long plastic tunnels, climb up and down wooden ramps, chase colored balls and splash in a shallow pool. It is like watching a three-ring circus there was so much activity. Both Tristan and Declan are laughing and clapping their hands.
I think we three spot him at the same time- an English Springer Spaniel. His fur is chocolate brown and white. His deep dark eyes twinkle in the sunlight. I know he is the one. The one I have been dreaming of since childhood.
Tristan and Declan are already reaching over the fence to rub his smooth, shiny fur. The dog is licking their hands and wagging his short tail.
“Can we take him home, Mommy. Can we?,” the boys ask with pleading eyes.
“Yes, of course. That’s why we are here," I reply smiling.
Megan opens the gate, allowing the boys and I into the fenced doggy play yard.
“Come, Because I Said So. Come here, boy," I call.
The dog of my dreams leaps into my waiting arms and gently licks the salty tears trickling down my cheeks. Tristan and Declan hurry over and wrap their small arms around both of us in a tight hug.
“I have been waiting for you my whole life,” I whisper into the dog’s soft fur.
“And I have been waiting for you," his dark eyes seem to say back to me.
After filling out the placement paperwork, Because I Said So is ours to take home to care for and love. With the leash in hand, the four of us walk back to the van.
“Mommy, we need to stop at Walmart for dog food,” Tristan says.
“And a bed and a ball,” Declan says.
“Yes, yes, we will buy everything he needs.”
I admit, we often get strange looks from people in the park and the neighborhood when the boys or I give commands to our dog.
“Fetch, Because I Said So.”
“Sit, Because I Said So.”
“Lie down, Because I Said So.”
“Roll over, Because I Said So.”
I have kept the promise I made to myself all those years ago. I have never said those four dreaded words to my two darling boys, but I never said I wouldn’t say them to my dog.