Bad economy. Good dog.|
Georgia Online News Service
In a bad economy, everyone says it's time to cut back. Stick to the basics. Don't take risks.
Last week, we got a puppy.
"Are you prepared to take care of this animal for 10 to 15 years?" asked the form from the rescue group.
I checked yes and gulped.
In the next 10 to 15 months, I am not even certain how I'm going to take care of my children.
This breed of decision making makes Suze Orman chew on her chic jacket.
But I don't own a chic jacket. I'm not a rabid dog lover, either.
I'm just someone looking hard at my values during this recession. I'm also looking for value for what I do spend.
For seven years I told my daughters, No dog. Who would take care of it? No one was home much of the day. When work was plentiful, I and my husband were too busy.
Now my job is gone and his is shaky. Our home looks a lot more like the ones we grew up in during the 1970s recession. There's a mom at home (me), making sandwiches and trying to make ends meet.
Finally there's time and space for a dog, and two girls aged 9 and 11 to help with its care. For their sake, shouldn't we save that money?
Save and wait, just as we had done for decades -- only to see so much of that savings go poof.
What we had built our hope on, that one day life would be better if we just worked hard now, was a beautiful nice carpet of dreams suddenly pulled out from under us.
We could see the false security we were really standing on all these years, all the safe choices.
We knew we wanted to go forward more boldly.
Instead of always planning for one day -- as in, "One day we might get a dog" -- why couldn't that one day be now?
This slump is a season to show our kids that how we face change forges our character. We can follow the path or find our own way.
We remember well the dogs we grew up with, back in the 1970s recession. No matter how high the food prices or how long the gas lines, they reminded us of a basic truth: All we really need is food, shelter and love.
And love often means dealing with crap. Sometimes a lot of it. Our daughters are ready for that lesson.
So we began to look for a dog that needed a home and saw, sure enough, there were lots of people shedding theirs -- even expensive purebreds and long-time companions.
Internet advertisements are full of stories of petowners who have lost a job or home or both. Their canine is the next casualty.
"The increase is staggering," Maryann Liotta, a metro Atlanta pet rescue volunteer for seven years, told me.
"There are a lot left on the street, and some owners are begging rescue groups to take their pets in. It's sometimes stressful and depressing because we try to save them all, but probably cannot at this point anyway."
We shopped for an adult medium-sized dog, house trained and not hyper. But, in another important lesson, we didn't end up with what we thought we wanted.
We clicked with a 4-month-old shepherd mix that would have gone to the local pound -- if there had been room. A nonprofit rescue group had her spayed and vaccinated, and when we paid her adoption fee, they pleasantly surprised us with a tax deduction receipt.
Cleo is our 20-pound stimulus package. Oblivious to cutbacks and buyouts and layoffs, she bounded in with the simple agenda of finding what to chew next. She purely adores making us happy. It is not possible to pet and play with her and worry at the same time.
She has big ears, soulful eyes and mixed heritage, like the guy in Washington who's trying to get us out of this jam. His family is getting a rescue dog soon, too.
If he's ever out on a cold morning while the First Dog heeds nature's call, perhaps he'll see what my dog has helped me notice.
There are new flowers that somehow, in winter's gray, bloomed bold yellow.
Here's hoping my puppy doesn't pee on them.
Michelle Hiskey is a freelance writer in Decatur, Ga. She can be reached at email@example.com. [full bio]