No, You May Not Have A Pet For Christmas

No, You May Not Have A Pet For Christmas

A few years ago, my son decided we should get a pet. He had so many reasons. And, around the holidays, he’ll start up his campaign again, forcing me to go into repeated rounds of “because I said so” to the point of exhaustion. I’ve tried to pinpoint the reasons why I’m so opposed. Maybe it’s because own family never had one? We traveled so much for my sister’s and my softball teams; we weren’t home enough to justify a pet.

Or maybe it’s because for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been nervous around animals? According to my parents, a Great Dane jumped on my stroller when I was two and I’ve never gotten over the scare. What started out as a childhood fear, has continued into adulthood as general anxiety when it comes to pets. 

I’ve tried to be open to the different options out there, really, I have. We’ve talked about it a lot. For starters though, I am violently allergic to cats. Even the presence of cat hair on someone’s clothes nearby makes me start sneezing uncontrollably. Being near a cat for a couple of hours results in red, swollen, and itchy eyes, and no amount of Benadryl provides relief. So that’s out. 

Then there are dogs. Obviously, there are remnants of my childhood fear. But, also, the clean-up situation is a real challenge for me. I see people walking around with their dogs, carrying little plastic bags, and I feel physically ill. Here’s a fun, albeit embarrassing, fact: When my son attended daycare, I would time my pickups after his usual 4:00 PM diaper fill up, just so that the daycare staff would handle it for me. I realize it might not have been the most considerate move, actually, it was horrible, but that’s how strongly I feel about avoiding feces-related tasks. Between the barking and the bodily functions and the pet hair, I just can’t fathom having a dog. 

So maybe my son’s hamster idea, which he lobbied hard for a few years back, is good for a starter pet? Here’s the thing though: I’m so forgetful. It’s not just mom brain. We had a fish in college, and I was so forgetful about it that my roommate took it home on weekends to protect it from me. My son is in sixth grade, and I still have to set an alarm to remember to leave to pick him up at carpool in the afternoon. I can’t imagine the scene if I forgot the hamster was in my son’s room for a few days while he was at his dad’s house. That could and definitely would happen.

I’ve had many folks tell me how great it is for kids, especially only children, to have a pet: they have a companion, they learn responsibility, etc. And we’ve made the pros and cons list. But it feels like more invisible labor and anxiety for me that I don’t need to add to my plate. 

I’ve done a lot of things I said I would never do as a parent: bought an iPad (thanks, COVID), allowed way too many plastic toys, had pizza for dinner on the couch three nights in a row. Yet, though I have made these past concessions, one thing remains: My son will NOT be unwrapping a pet this holiday season.

Stephanie Davi-McNeely
Stephanie Davi McNeely has been in and around the nonprofit fundraising space for nearly twenty years. She oversees development and strategic partnerships, for the ACE Mentor Program of America, a national nonprofit mentoring program based in Philadelphia. There she is responsible for corporate and individual fundraising initiatives, as well as the growth and development of national partnerships with design and construction firms. In her spare time, she plays mom’s league softball, watches her son play soccer, takes French class through the Alliance, and serves as the First Lady of the University of Holy Cross in Algiers. She resides in New Orleans, Louisiana with her husband and 11-year-old son.


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