Jaron and I have watched a couple of movies recently that make you want to live in the northeast and have a dog.  We already have a dog.  He’s fantastic.

“It makes me want another dog.  A puppy.”

Those words rang out in the living room.  Our dog, Banjo, lifted his head.  I don’t even know whether it was me or Jaron who said it, but everything went silent, while we waited to see if we were about to be struck by lightning for such blasphemy.  Because here’s the thing.  You never want another dog.  Especially not a puppy.

We learned this the hard way, which brings me to my first little discussion of things we’ve done in the spirit of not simplifying life.

How to Complicate Your Life #1: Insisting on More of  Good Thing

In the winter of 2006 Jaron and I had been married for just six months.  We were definitely one of those couples on their way to a rough first year.  Fortunately for us, the care of my personal mentor, Dana, went a long way in shortening the rough patch, and the rest of the work was done by adopting a third member of the family, our puppy, Banjo.

Jaron and I both have a tendency to focus on ideas, dreams, hypothetical conversations, fears… anything that’s not tangible.  Banjo drew us in to the here and now like nothing had before.  Because here and now there was a dog peeing on the carpet, or eating the toggles on my sweater, or digging through the bathroom trash, or chasing a squirrel out the window and down the street.  Here and now there was a very fuzzy puppy who would like to play and have a belly rub, and blow bubbles in his water dish, and run in the breakers at the beach.

Banjo as a puppy

Initially Banjo made life more difficult for us and we definitely had some adopter’s remorse from time to time.  But he also added routine to our lives and got us out of the house and meeting our neighbors, who were now able to associate us with the very cute puppy and the dilapidated eyesore next to their $2 million home instead of just the latter.  He was exactly what we needed.

Two and half years later, out in Illinois with our first home and a huge yard, we found ourselves with a hankering to do it again.  So, for the next four months we spent time and money like never before, trying to make it work with our new puppy, Kona, an Alaskan malamute whose first home burned down.  Between September and December  we had countless potty-training nightmares along with monetary costs that were much easier to quantify: to the tune of $5,000.  We learned that Kona had a heart murmur and a misaligned bladder.  Her love for howling made it impossible for her to be an outdoor dog, and it wasn’t long before she had Banjo looking more like a chew toy than his normally chipper self.  Kona was very affectionate, a beautiful dog with, as we finally had to admit, no place in our home.

Sometimes, even with the things we love, we forget to be content.  Having a good thing, we think, means more of it will be better.  So we end up with a newer car, bigger home, better sound system, more prestigious job, longer vacation, second puppy.  We forget that this new addition is just as big a gamble the second time around as it was the first.  And the thing we loved in its previous form has now become a force of its own; instead of adding to our life, it dominates it.

Jaron and I still find ourselves tempted by more and better, even when we  already have our needs met by the previous version.  But no new puppies will be joining us this fall.  No new houses or additional volunteer hours.  Thanks, Kona, for teaching us to love what we have.

Jaron and Kona, September 2008

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