Illustration by Jose Santana Firpo

Long Story Short: Pet Project

My plan is to replace Charles with a King Charles Spaniel. Seems like a fair trade, with me ending up on the winning end a bit, given the good nature of the breed. Charles, our 18-year-old son, leaves home for college in approximately 43 days and seven hours, and we are going to miss the boy like heck. So I’m filling the void with a lap dog. One who will love without question and will not talk back or stay out too late. One who will not walk around in the same flannel shirt in the middle of summer and make me question whether or not he’s bathed. One whose whole job on earth is to make me happy.

Therein lies the rub. Rosie (I’ve already named the dog) will be a beautiful King Charles Spaniel, and I’m quite sure the whole family will fall head over heels in love with her. But we already have a well-loved dog in residence named Jack. And Jack—at 8 years old—is calm, compassionate, beautiful and housebroken. He chases the ball when we throw it, he comes back home when we call his name, and he hugs by lowering his big yellow Lab head into my chest. Jack is the best family dog ever. Jack is pretty sure that his job on earth is to make me happy. And he does. So if I bring Rosie home, completely out of the blue one day, I’m worried that Jack will think he is slacking at his job.

Jack is not slacking at his job. He is just not a lap dog. Jack was taught never to climb up on the furniture and not to go upstairs. So being an obedient Labrador, he doesn’t climb on the furniture or go upstairs. Unless the deceitful and conniving teenagers coerce the dog into doing what his training taught him not to do. And he knows it’s wrong, and he worries about it. If I walk in the living room, and Jack is lounging on the sofa being petted by one of my children, he immediately jumps off sheepishly and tucks into a back corner out of remorse. And I get blamed for being a “dictator” when I was merely walking through the house to go to my bedroom. If only my perceived dictatorship had that much control. Jack knows he’s not supposed to be on the sofa, so he’s not going to relish being on the sofa.

Rosie, on the other hand, is made for the sofa. In fact, the King Charles Spaniel breed is often photographed on top of sofas and fancy chairs in fancy houses with fancy pillows and decorators. This breed is beautiful with silky ears and looks good on good furniture. They belong there. No matter that I don’t have fancy sofas and chairs. I figure: start with the fancy dog and the rest will fall into place. Instead of picking out artwork to match your sofa (that’s a no no), what is wrong with picking out a sofa to complement your spaniel? I see nothing wrong with that. In fact, it might work with my new vision of myself. My post-teenager life.

But what to do about Jack? My concern is so great that I haven’t committed to Rosie. I would be heartbroken if Jack was heartbroken. I’m writing this at the break of dawn (that’s when I write) and my 13-year-old sitting next to me just told me to get Rosie. Jack will be fine. But she’s been watching Tik-Tok and texting a friend all night, and she is only up at daybreak because she hasn’t gone to sleep.

“I can sleep all day.”

On second thought, I’m not sure I can housebreak another life right now. I’m not sure I can nurture another soul. I am dropping the 18-year-old off with “Only Return for Big Family Gathering” keys and my youngest just informed me that she’s just pulled an all-nighter. Maybe I need a break. A chance to recharge. Maybe I don’t need something extra licking me in the face. Maybe I just need a big yellow Labrador hug and a good night’s sleep. Rosie and the new fancy sofa can be the things of my dreams.