The Sixth Stage of Grief: Buying a Puppy

11 Apr 2014

The following is an excerpt from an article published in the New York Times as part of the Motherlode section.

Last fall, I received a puppy for my birthday. The gift, from my wife, Cynthia, was welcome, even if it came around 50 years too late.

Still, the undiluted joy I’m sure I would have felt as, say, a 6-year-old has been undermined by a nagging grownup question: What were we thinking, getting a dog? Probably, we were thinking – without realizing it at the time – that this has been a difficult year for our family.

Those difficulties began but didn’t end with our son, Jonah, who has autism and just turned 15. Social interaction, always a challenge for him, has become considerably more challenging during his teenage years. We figured he could use a friend. He is not only isolated from his peers these days, but he is also increasingly isolated from Cynthia and me. Jonah’s door is closed an awful lot and his self-imposed exile, not that unusual for any teenager, has still been hard to adjust to. Some days, I find myself staring at that door, wondering what happened to our adorable little boy.

Well, he’s grown lean, tall and hairy. He is turning into a handsome young man, who prefers not to be called cute any more. This explains, in part, the decision to add something unambiguously cute to our life.

It was as if my wife and I were sharing the same primal, evolutionary urge. Human beings are hard-wired for adorableness, parents especially; otherwise what would prevent us from leaving the nest before our children themselves fly? What can I say? We needed a puppy.

So much so, in our neighborhood pet store, we were anything but attentive parents. We ignored Jonah’s objections and his unprecedented offer to tell us what happened in school that day if we just didn’t buy a dog. Even the clerk in the pet store sensed an unusual amount of family tension and suggested we take our time. “All sales are final,” she said. “You understand what that means, don’t you?”

Read the rest of the article in the New York Times