The letter asking for a dog was written in the curvy, careful handwriting of a grammar-school girl wanting to make an impression. Crumpled drafts were on the floor of her room, explorations of different arguments to press her case. In the end, my daughter used them all.
And she ended the letter with emotion, signing it "with love and hope."
Hope? How can a mother reject hope?
Still, it's been 30 years since I've had a dog, our yard isn't fenced and I thought my potty-training days were over.
How do you know if you are ready for dog ownership?
Experts say you need to examine your lifestyle, living arrangements and finances. Then, you need to find the right match.
"There is a home for every dog, but every home is not right for every dog," said Kim Saunders, vice president of operations and communications for St. Hubert's of Madison, N.J., which has two animal shelters and a dog training center.
When deciding whether to get a dog, everyone in the household should be comfortable with the idea, experts say. Once the entire family is on board, it's important to decide who the primary caregiver will be -- the person responsible for feeding, walking, training, exercising and enriching the dog.
Potential dog owners also should figure out whether they have enough time to care for a dog. Even if long workdays are typical, however, dog owners can arrange with a neighbor or dog walker to help out.
"Lots of busy people have pets," said Dr. Brian Collins, who supervises veterinary students' appointments and surgeries at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine. "It's a matter of whether you are going to make the changes necessary to make it a priority."
The Schutte family, of Cheyenne, Wyo., brought home Toby, a Canaan puppy, in early January. Lance Schutte and his wife have demanding jobs, and after work they are active with their children's extracurricular activities. They love to play with Toby, but they don't have a lot of time for long walks.
"All the traits of the Canaan breed seemed to fit well into our family lifestyle," said Schutte, stewardship coordinator for the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust. Canaans are generally loyal and family-oriented, according to the American Kennel Club, require regular exercise and are easy to train. The Schuttes hope that feeding and housetraining Toby will teach their two preteens responsibility.
As a general rule, puppies and adolescent dogs require more time than adult dogs, said Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of the ASPCA's Adoption Center in New York City. Personality and energy level should be considered for a successful dog-family match, she said.