Our family’s beloved dog Roscoe passed away a few months ago after a seven-month battle with cancer. Several people have asked me if we planned on getting another dog. The answer is, although I do miss him, probably not.
When we brought Roscoe home ten years ago, our family was in a much different place then where we are now. At that time my boys ranged in age from four to fourteen and my youngest son was about to finish nursery school. It seemed like a good time to bring a dog into our lives–I desperately wanted a dog when I was growing up and I thought it would be nice for my kids to have the experience I felt I missed.
This is not a Marley and Me story; I wanted a dog with a gentle and calm disposition who could handle our rambunctious household and that’s exactly what we got. After looking at several breeds, we ended up with a half bichon frise, half poodle mix who was as far from an alpha dog as you can get. My oldest son chose the name Roscoe (possibly in honor of a famous diner located upstate) and we all grew attached to him fairly quickly.
Although I became his primary care giver, Roscoe was everyone’s dog and with so many people around we were able to take turns walking and feeding him. The kids were generally pretty good about refilling his water bowl and looking out for him.
When our oldest son left for college, Roscoe missed his oldest “brother” and would often go to into his room looking for him. Five years later it was my middle son’s turn to leave and Roscoe had another empty room to wander through. My youngest son, who had been the least attached to the dog up to that point, bonded with him in a way he hadn’t seemed able to when our house was full. Perhaps because they were both a little lonely they started hanging out together, often watching baseball or soccer on television.
When the older boys returned from school, the first thing they always did was seek out the dog; I could tell how much they had missed him. And by the dog’s enthusiastic greeting, the feeling was obviously mutual.
Since I am a stay at home mom, Roscoe looked to me for his care and protection and became my second shadow. If I got in bed to read or rest, he was right there beside me. If I was in the bathroom, he would peek his head in, like a toddler, making sure he knew where I was. He was usually no more than two steps behind me, especially when I opened the cheese drawer in the refrigerator. I still expect him to come begging for food whenever I am in the kitchen.
With all the unconditional love and incredible sweetness he added to our lives, I know it seems odd that I would not want to get another dog. It’s not that I don’t think I would be able to bond with another dog; I am sure I would. I have friends whose dogs passed away and they couldn’t bear to live without another. I am somewhat in the middle on the issue of owning a dog; I miss having one, yet don’t feel I could commit to another.
My oldest son asked me why we couldn’t get another dog. I had trouble explaining my feelings and started by saying that I didn’t want to have to take another dog to the vet or the groomer. He replied, “That’s not such a big deal.” And he’s right; it’s not the vet, or buying dog food, or hiring a dog sitter, or the groomer, or any of those specific things. It’s all of it put together. It’s the feeling of guilt I had when I left him alone too long and knowing he was sitting on the chair in our living room waiting for us. It’s the huge responsibility that comes with caring for another living creature. I feel the worse thing I could do would be to get another dog and then not give him the care or attention he deserved.
Having lost humans who were very close to me I was surprised by the depth of sadness that I felt when Roscoe died, and for how much I miss him. I feel especially sad for my youngest son; I wish Roscoe could have lived long enough to see him leave for college, and for my son to experience the joy of reunions when he came home.
I am grateful to Roscoe for so many things, including introducing me the universe of dog ownership, with all its wonders and craziness. Perhaps there will come a time when it feels right to get another dog, but after two and a half decades of parenting and ten years of living with Roscoe, I know that, at least for now, I need a little space and freedom. If there comes a time when the emptiness in the house becomes overwhelming, I might change my mind, but it’s also possible that I was a one-dog woman and Roscoe was that one dog.