Can't say no to Fido - or Kitty?

Can't say no to Fido - or Kitty?

The pet pressure is building in our household.

I’ve managed to hold off acquiring a furry friend for eight years, since our last kitty went to meet her feline maker.

But our kids are fairly relentless, and I’ve run out of excuses.

For awhile, it was hairball fatigue. I wasn’t ready to deal with the cleanup involved with a pet and two young kids.

My husband and I work unpredictable hours and travel a lot to visit family, so pets present logistical challenges, i.e.: which one of our friends can we guilt into taking care of them while we’re gone?

Cats aren’t quite as time-consuming as dogs, given that they don’t really care if you’re Blog Photoaround all that much. (“Oh, you’re home? Well, I am hungry.”) You can leave out some food and water for a weekend, and they’re as happy as cats can be.

My husband is a big cat fan, having once inherited the world’s coolest blue-point Siamese cat, named Mao. He was playful and affectionate, with a beautiful gray coat, blue crossed eyes and a funny, guttural “meow.” He routinely won over other non-cat people with his antics — like the day he shoved the other Siamese aside after she’d spent 20 minutes trying to catch a moth in our bathroom. He jumped up on the counter, pinned the moth against the wall and ate it in one motion, then walked out as if to say, “That’s how it’s done, rookie.”

But our daughter has a slight allergy to cats (and supposedly dogs, though she’s never reacted). And our kids seem to prefer a dog.

But then I start adding up the cost (fence for the yard, potential kennel fees, the look on our relatives’ faces when we show up with a dog to stay at their house for the weekend, etc.).

Hence our stalemate.

We put the idea on hold for the past couple of years while my husband recovered from some health issues, but everyone is now itching (no allergy pun intended) for a new family member.

So I caved. For Christmas I bought my kids a gift card to a pet shop — not as warm and fuzzy as a puppy in a stocking, but I’m not that organized.

They were predictably excited, and my daughter spent hours one night doing research on low-allergy cats. There really are some that don’t look like rats, including the Balinese, sort of a long-haired version of a Siamese. Apparently they have less of the protein that cause allergic reactions. Score.

And you can find lots of low-allergy dog breeds. Most of them are A) huge (Afghan hound); B) need lots of grooming (Bichon Frise); or C) “active and energetic,” requiring lots of exercise (including the Obamas’ favorite, Portuguese water dogs).

The only problem is they're not easy to find -- or cheap.

So we took a trip to the local shelter, just to see what was available. As predicted, they did not have any Balinese or small nonallergenic dogs that don’t shed.

It was hard not to take an armful of pets home with us anyway, but we had established some “not buying anything today” ground rules ahead of time. We didn’t really have time to deal with it that weekend — which should probably have been a red flag. We all know who’s going to end up taking care of this pet.

Anyway, we put our pet search off again for the winter, but now spring has rolled around and the fever is back.

And over the weekend, we had a sign. We were traveling to Nebraska for a family wedding and stopped at a random gas station in Iowa.

As I was filling the tank, stretching my legs to get the circulation going again, the guy filling his pickup truck at the next pump says, “I’ve got something that will warm you up.”

Now being a reporter, I am immediately suspicious of statements like that. Then he opened the back of his pickup.

Sure that I was about to see something Illegal, I kept my distance. But then a black Labrador retriever jumped out of the truck, and I saw a small basket next to her kennel. Inside were six adorable puppies, not three days old, their eyes still closed.

Seriously? Who runs into newborn puppies at a truck stop?

But I couldn’t help myself. I cooed and petted one of their soft heads, then raced inside the store to get my daughter.

She melted, too, and our new friend went into full sales mode, talking about how well Blog Phototrained his dogs are, how much they cost, how he has customers from all over, etc.

I resisted, and managed to get away when another unsuspecting driver walked up to see the puppies.

But it won’t be long. We are at pet fever pitch.

My husband is still pushing for a cat, and at this point our kids would be happy with either. In any case, I am outnumbered.

Anybody up for some pet sitting?

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Julie Wurth blogs about kids and families and covers the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. Leave a comment below, or contact her at 217-351-5226, jwurth@news-gazette.com or Twitter.com/jawurth.

Sections (1):Living
Topics (2):People, Pets

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