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I'm a cat person and my family wants a dog--help!

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  July 9, 2012 07:28 AM

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A study was released this week saying that kids who have a dog around in the first year of life are healthier (the authors think it helps the immune system) and it's adding to my guilt.

My children want a dog bad. And I don't. I am a cat person.

Actually, we did have a dog for a while. Shoki, an Akita, preceded me; he was a great dog, and wonderful with our two oldest children--until he bit Zack in the face when he was a toddler, narrowly missing his eye and leaving a scar (even with multiple stitches by a plastic surgeon). It was an accident--Zack fell on Shoki's sore ear when Shoki was asleep, startling him. But Shoki got sore ears a lot, and we had two small children...it was not an accident I could risk again, so we found a new home for the dog. Since then (that was 1994), I've said that we can't even consider a dog until we have no small children in the house. My eldest child, who has led the campaign for most of her life, says that the reason I keep having kids (we have five) is to avoid getting a dog.

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But now the youngest is six. And he's crazy about dogs. 

What makes me feel worst is that my family has given up. They know I don't like dogs, and since for whatever reason I end up having the final say on things, they barely even try anymore. And as much as I don't like dogs, I really want my family to be happy.

So I'm crowdsourcing this one. I'd really like help. Maybe if I tell you why I don't like dogs, you will be able to counter them and convince me on behalf of my family.

Dogs wear me out. They need so much attention, especially as puppies. I'm the early riser of the family (it's when I get most of my writing done), so I figure that I'll have to deal with the dog while everyone is still asleep (and not get my writing done). They jump on you and want you to play with them. Cats, while less abundantly affectionate, demand far less; they mostly amuse and take care of themselves.

I hate dog poop. I really do. Not that I love cat poop, but it's smaller and gets conveniently deposited in a litter box (or, when they go outside, in places I never see). I don't want dog poop in our yard--having to watch your step all the time is no fun. I'm not wild about the idea of picking it up, either--and as that early riser, I figure I'm going to be the one out in the morning doing just that.

Dogs can't be left alone long. Cats can be left all day or even all weekend if you leave them food and water and a litter box; dogs need to be let out and played with. This complicates life; it's something else to think about if for whatever reason we aren't going to be around all day, or when we go away as we do for two weeks every August. I feel like life with five kids is complicated enough.

Okay, guys--bring it on! For my family's sake, can you help me be a dog person?




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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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