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A canine conundrum: To gift or not to gift

Family Matters
by Ray Wong   

Our 8-year-old daughter, Kristie, called a special meeting. As my wife, Quyen, and I sat at the dining table, and our 11-year-old son, Kevin, looked on from the family room couch. Kristie peered first at me, then at Quyen. Our daughter spoke as if she had been rehearsing for a campaign speech. “Daddy, Mommy, you know that I have a special birthday coming up.”
She paused as if to let the full weight of her words really sink in. Quyen and I looked at each other to silently acknowledge the fact that Kristie did indeed have a birthday coming up in just a little over six months before turning our attention back to our daughter.
“For my special birthday, I really want to wish for a horse or a dog.”
This has been a recurring request for over two years. Kristie’s room is filled with stuffed animals, six of which are of the canine variety: a pudgy cocker spaniel that could benefit from a good crash diet, a pink poodle with black bows tied around its fluffy ears and a collared heart inscribed with the words “I LOVE YOU,” a boxer pup flashing a tiny pink tongue at the world, a black-faced pug gripping a rope in its mouth, a golden retriever puppy whose expression says, “Please come play with me,” and a teddy-bear-sized Snoopy.
She also has pictures of carousel horses hanging on her bedroom walls, a unicorn Pillow Pet, two Barbie horses -- one of which is battery operated and can trot with Barbie on its back, and a child-sized toy pony that Kristie can ride in the family room.
None of these are “real” though and Kristie has become determined to own either a horse or a dog. Quyen and I have tried to deter our daughter from thinking about four-legged pets by plying her with goldfish. Yes, we have two of them swimming in a rock-bottomed circular tank atop our kitchen counter, and Kristie takes great delight in watching them swim, but she’s not satisfied.
A horse is out of the question because nobody in our family knows the first thing about how to maintain one, and I have brought up the consequences of dog ownership by constantly mentioning the movie, Marley and Me, but Kristie counters that it’s only a movie. When Quyen and I say that a dog is a huge responsibility, Kristie points to how well she’s been doing on all her homework assignments – doesn’t that show her level of responsibility to take care of a dog or horse?
Quyen and I have pitched every argument we can think of against adopting a dog: they attract fleas, Kevin is allergic to pet hair (cat), the yuckiness of cleaning up the poop, the fact that animals get sick and need to go to the vet, but Kristie remains steadfast. So as our daughter prepares for her ninth birthday, Quyen and I have six months to come up with another plan. Does anybody know if they’re doing a sequel to Marley and Me?
Family quote: “I’m depressed, and it means you don’t feel you’re having any fun, and you’re alone, and you feel cold in the heart because Mommy won’t let me sleep in her bed.” – Kristie.


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