Small Wonders: The dog days of parenthood

When my wife and I wanted children, we did what comes naturally and were successful. Twice. We're now at the comfortable stage in our lives when we'd like to add to that family. But we're finding it difficult this time around.

Perhaps it's human genetics. Perhaps it's my urologist's scalpel skills. But something tells me that no amount of marital intimacy is going to place a puppy in my wife's womb.

With human offspring there were no agreements to sign, no social or governmental watchdogs to impress, before partaking in the baby-making process. Not so with canine offspring. I support protecting those that cannot protect themselves, keeping our cities free of vagrant critters and providing safe homes for wayward mammals. But the guardians of life are a bit more restrictive with puppies than with people.

Adopting from the pound … er, sorry … humane society is still relatively painless. But should you want something other than a Chihuahua or pit bull, you go to a "rescue." And in our nascent efforts to procure a family dog, we've hit a most intriguing prophylactic: the adoption application — a form that must be completed simply to be considered as a potential adopter.

Were these questions asked prior to certain connubial duties, world hunger and overpopulation would be nonexistent.

Q. What behavior would not be tolerated: Getting on furniture, chewing, barking, potty accidents, crying/whining, begging, getting in garbage…

Isn't tolerating this the point of having a dog?

Q. How would you handle the infraction?


Q. Would you be willing to housetrain?

No. Dogs should urinate freely wherever they choose. Like Daddy.

Q. Are you willing to provide daily walks? How far? What pace? Describe your commute route and time. Describe all entrances/exits to your residence, as well as yard, gate and fences. How many hours a day will he be left alone? Where, specifically, and when? Where, specifically, will she sleep?

Where, specifically, is the spare key to your house, your ATM card and PIN?

Q. How many hours a day would the dog be spending in a crate?

No more than the children.

Q. Do you promise to brush your dog daily?

That's more than we brush our teeth!

Q. What is your philosophy regarding dogs that develop medical problems?

Nietzschean philosophy.

Q. Are you willing to accept full responsibility for a dog that may live 18 years?

When our kids hit 10, they're on their own. That goes for the dog too.

Q. What would you do if you or your spouse became pregnant?

Laugh and cry, respectively.

Q. What brand of food would you feed your dog? List the first five ingredients.

This one came with a list of suggested (perhaps illegal?) exotic meats. Had we answered honestly before children, they never would have let us procreate. Cheese, salami, butter, mayo and pistachios.

Q. Would you consider this dog to be a member of your family and be a loving guardian for the rest of his/her natural life?

So help you God?

Q. Do you agree to allow post-adoption visits?

BYOB only.

Q. What is your monetary limit before considering euthanization?

At least, this is a trick question begging the applicant to lie, saying no amount would be enough. At best, the asker has already assigned a monetary value to the dog's life that is their acceptable financial commitment and you are to guess at that number. My answer: purchase price, plus prime interest rate.

And most importantly:

Q. List one groomer reference.

Vidal Sassoon.

This all begs my own question: If these dogs are being provided such idyllic foster care, why offer them for adoption? Better yet, will you adopt my children?

It's a respectful effort to protect animals. But the result is a condescending biopsy whose granularity of questioning assumes the only reason we want to adopt a dog is to feed it glass shards and lock it in a closet 22 hours a day.

I don't mean to sound snarky. OK, maybe a little snarky, but only to those who value animals higher than humans. And I certainly don't mean to belittle the efforts of animal workers, rescuers and volunteers at well-meaning, benevolent organizations who pick up where sub-humans fail.

But here's my application: I am a good person. My wife is an even better person. We have two well-adjusted, intelligent, spirited daughters on the road to becoming amazing human beings who are crazy to get a dog.

We have a nice little house with an enclosed yard in an average suburban neighborhood. We are a family that wants to welcome a new member in canine form and take care of it 'till death do us part.

But I won't promise to feed him kangaroo or iguana meat. Unless, of course, that's what I packed in my kids' lunchbox that day.

PATRICK CANEDAY is author of the upcoming book "Crooked Little Birdhouse." He may be reached on Facebook and at

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