Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Father Softens to a Child's Pleas for a Pet

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Father Softens to a Child's Pleas for a Pet

Article excerpt

Long before it had struck my nine-year-old son, Alyosha, to ask for one, I had preemptively planned to deny his request for a dog. In my family, affection for canines is strong, exceeded only by the disinclination to actually own one. Therefore, for generations I suspect, there has never been a great deal of soul-searching in my family when a child asked for a dog. The "no" response seems to be automatically programmed in. But, in the manner of most parent-child issues, compromise is always afoot. When I was a boy, it seemed that I could have any of my heart's desires, provided I was persistent enough, and my family could work it into a very limited budget. It took me a year to wheedle a bike with a banana seat out of my parents and two for a basketball backboard over our garage door. But, although we probably could have afforded a dog, my father was absolutely resolute on this issue. I worked on him for years, even threatening to run away at the age of 12. But I think he would rather have packed my bag than give in. His message was sometimes verbalized: "If we get a dog," he said, "I'll be the one walking it at 5 in the morning." At some level, I suspected he was right, and by the age of 15 - my fifth year of lobbying for canine companionship - I threw in the towel. My father must have experienced a sense of relief, which put him in the mood for reparation. At about the time our canine truce was reached, a street tabby wandered into our lives and my father did little more than sigh. Within a week, Peanuts, as I named him, had become part of the family landscape. My father, to save face, stipulated that Peanuts must be kept outside. "I don't want him in the house," he told me, adding that Peanuts had obviously survived well outdoors and there was no reason to break him of a good habit. Peanuts then became our porch cat, going and coming as he pleased, lapping a bit of milk now and then, and grooming himself in the shade of our front-yard spruce. In the manner of most cats, he didn't demand much and dispensed his token affections in the form of a leg rub or a tentative cheek nuzzle. This delicate accommodation lasted for several months. When November arrived, and winter began to whisper on the wings of colder winds, I felt sorry for Peanuts. I'd see him curled up in a corner of the porch for warmth's sake and watch him squint against the squalls that accompanied the change of seasons. One unusually bitter Saturday I returned home from play, but didn't see my pet either on the porch or under the spruce. I looked around the property for him, but the cold soon drove me indoors. I stopped short on the living-room threshold: There, on the couch, lay my sleeping father. And there, lying curled up on his stomach, was a snoozing Peanuts, blissfully unaware that his bed was someone who was never more than a thought away from a pet-free house. …
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