Posted by: Jamie Stamm | November 6, 2008

As visions of Christmas puppies dance in her head …


Cera has gotten it in her head that she wants a puppy – and nothing but a puppy – for Christmas this year.

And she has resorted to cuteness to get one, making me drawings that show she and I walking a dog together (“It would be great exercise for us,” she told me) and penning her own little stories about puppies.

Anthony is definitely on the bandwagon, and Jerry is OK with the idea “for next year, when she’s older and more responsible.” But me …

Well, I’m just not a dog person. And that’s not from lack of experience with them.

Our first dog, which we got when I was a freshman in high school, was Rachel, a German Shepherd who hadn’t been with us long when my brother Steve’s pediatrician decided that Steve was allergic to her. So we gave Rachel to my aunt and uncle, who already had Tara, another German Shepherd, and who gave that dog a much better life than we ever could have.

Then, a few years later on my 16th birthday, after it had been determined that my brother had actually been allergic to a long-haired cat that we’d had at the same time as Rachel, our family adopted Barney, a coonhound/Great Dane mix and – quite simply – the coolest dog ever. He was huge (he weighed more than 160 pounds) and completely lazy (unless you fed him cotton candy, which caused him to act like a hyped-up puppy – at least for a little while). But he had his charms: his droopy jowls that more often than not were secreting some type of icky slime; his fear of thunderstorms, which caused him to run and hide in the bathtub; his penchant for eating socks, which, in case you were wondering, don’t digest; and his ability to carry three tennis balls in his mouth at once. But like many dogs his size, Barney was with us too briefly, succumbing to bone cancer at the age of 6.

While we still had Barney, my dad brought home our next dog, Tilley, from a nearby farm. As best we could tell, she was a Basenji, and she was the most skittish dog I’ve ever encountered, the type who peed all over the place every time she met a stranger (and sometimes even those who were familiar to her, like my grandfather, who loved dogs so much that he kept biscuits in his pants pockets). But there was something sweet about Tilley, and more than any other dog that we had, I felt like I was “her human.” She would go nuts when I came home from college, and I loved to just sit with her in my lap, running my fingers through her somewhat wiry fur. Tilley also died of cancer, although her demise was much quicker than Barney’s and somewhat more unexpected.

Next came Sam, a golden retriever mix (he has a purple tongue, so we suspect there might be a bit of chow in him) with a severe case of OCD. Sam is definitely my mom’s dog. He shadows her every move and actually gets jealous when she pays attention to her grandchildren instead of him. He loves to swim in my parents’ pool and has been known to float around on the bottom of Mom’s chair in the summertime. My kids absolutely ADORE Sam – they will play ball with him for hours and Cera has taken an entire series of photographs of him. And me? Well, I would compare Sam to a bratty little brother: he’s a pain in the ass – but I still love him.

My parents also have another dog, Jake, a black lab who rivals Barney in laziness. Jake is Steve’s dog, worshiping the ground that my brother walks on. He spends 90 percent of the time looking downright depressed, but he also has these chocolate brown puppy dog eyes that he will use to manipulate you into feeding him whatever it is you are eating, from ice cream to Cheetos. And he looks genuinely appreciative when you pet or brush him. He’s a hard dog not to love.

So, I actually do like some dogs. I think that maybe I just don’t want the added responsibility. I already pick up after four people (including myself), and I can just imagine the meltdowns if I miss something on the floor and the puppy chews up a Barbie or (God forbid) a piece of Jerry’s video game equipment. I have a hard time sleeping as it is, and I don’t want to have to get up in the middle of the night to take a puppy out to pee. And I still change diapers – I don’t want to have to deal with dog poop, too.

So yesterday, I tried reminding Cera what. two years ago, perhaps the most wonderful Santa I’ve ever encountered told her when she asked him for a zebra.

“Santa can’t bring live animals,” he had told her. “How about a stuffed zebra instead?”

After much searching on my part, Cera got a stuffed zebra from Santa that year. But I don’t think a stuffed puppy will suffice this time around. Because the girl really has her heart set on a real one.

In fact, when I reminded her of Santa’s words, she replied, “Then you and Daddy can get me a puppy. It just needs to be small enough to fit in a box so you can put it under the Christmas tree.”



  1. Compromise. cera can have a puppy on her eighth birthday. this way she knows a dog is in her future, she will be old enough to help ( although that wont last long ) and both kids ( and hopefully Jerry ) will be old enough to keep things picked up (or learn the hard way like katie did after many slimed and decapitated Barbies!)

  2. …not to be morbid, but Tara was dead long before Rachey game around (she’s from your childhood, Samantha is from mine!). And did you know that Rachel and Samantha are both in urns in Bob and Janet’s house?? Creepy.

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