DEAR JOAN: My mother will be 84 in a few weeks. She’s in reasonably good health, although she uses a walker because she’s not very steady on her feet. She lives with us, so we are able to give her the assistance she needs.
For most of her life, she has had at least one dog. She likes the little yappy ones that sleep in her lap. About two years ago, before she moved in with us, her last dog died. She was devastated.
She has talked about getting another dog, but we don’t have any pets and my husband and I aren’t sure we want one. My husband works and I do a lot of volunteer work, which takes me away from the house throughout the day. I worry that my mom wouldn’t be able to take care of a pet when we aren’t there.
What do you think?
Not Dog People, Danville
DEAR NOT.: You have valid concerns about having a pet, but I think it’s important to also consider what’s best for your mom.
Studies have shown that pets can add years to your life, but even if they only extend our time by a single hour, the joy and love they bring can enrich whatever time we are given.
I get that you and your husband aren’t pet people, but your mom obviously is. You’re also gone from the house for large portions of time, and your mom would benefit from having a dog as loving company.
You obviously know your mom’s abilities better than anyone, but you don’t mention anything in your letter that would indicate she wouldn’t be capable of caring for a dog on her own. If you’re concerned about her getting up to let the dog out, you could always install a doggy door.
There is concern about people with mobility issues tripping over a small pet or being knocked over by a larger one. With training, the dog can be taught to stay out from underfoot and to be gentle.
Having a dog is a big responsibility and as you’re already caring for you mom, it might be too much. However, if your mom is capable of doing most of it, you might consider whether you could manage the rest.
Dogs are known as a human's best friend. But which breeds are sought-after among Americans? Here is a look at the most popular types of dogs in the U.S., according to the American Kennel Club. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)
No. 1 Labrador retrievers: Nestlé, a 5 1/2 month-old labrador retriever, with a local chapter of the Guide Dogs for the Blind, in Terminal A during a training session at San Jose International Airport in San Jose, Calif. on Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
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No. 1 Labrador retrievers: Karen Zelis, left, the facilitator of the Contra Costa County District Attorney's courthouse dog program, and Mary Pickett, handler to the newly hired courthouse dog, sit inside Department 3 with JoJo at the A.F. Bray Courthouse in Martinez, Calif., on Friday, Oct. 30, 2015. JoJo, a calm and loving female Labrador Rretriever and the first courthouse dog in Contra Costa County, is a supportive presence to traumatized children and adults as they go through the criminal justice process. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)
No. 2. German Shepherd: Two German Shepherd puppies were rescued by San Leandro police after officers arrested a man suspected of taking the dogs from a Livermore home last week. (San Leandro Police Department)
No. 2 German Shepherd: Gypsy is a spayed female, black and tan German Shepherd Dog available for
Courtesy Contra Costa Animal Services
No. 3 golden retriever: 50-day-old Golden Retriever puppies are seen at the Chilean police canine training school in Santiago, on October 09, 2018. (Martin Bernetti/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)
No. 3 golden retriever: Chilean policeman Eduardo Parra, in charge of the police dogs maternity area, holds 50-day-old Golden Retriever puppies after their training session at the Chilean police canine training school in Santiago, on October 09, 2018. (Photo by Martin Bernetti/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)
Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group archives
No. 4 French bullldog: Bogart, an 11-month old French bulldog owned by Kaitlyn Shepardson of Emeryville, looks up while playing at the Baldwin Dog Park in Concord, Calif., on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
No. 4 French bulldog: Pixel the French bulldog sits with his human friends inside Original Gravity Public House as part of the Silicon Valley Beer Week on Saturday, July 21, 2018 in San Jose. The celebration lasts until July 29 offering a chance for beer-lovers to experience events all around Silicon Valley. (Maritza Cruz/ Bay Area News Group)
No. 5 bulldogs: A costumed mascot from Sam's Downtown Feed and Pet Supply, left, tries to give English Bulldog, Mack a doggie treat at the grand openning of the long-awaited Watson Dog Park in San Jose on Aug. 3, 2003. (Richard Koci Hernandez/Staff archives)
No. 6 beagles: Beagle pups in their recreation area of the Huntington Llife Sciences complex near Huntingdon, England in 2002. (Jonathan Player/The New York Times)
No. 6 beagles: Mark Sandoval poses with his three beagles, Buttons, Bubbles and Buddy in the future site of a dog park at Los Gatos Creek Park in Campbell on Feb. 9, 2005. (Gary Reyes/Staff archives)
No. 7 poodles: Patricia Kelly, of Los Angeles, holds the leash of three standard poodles brought to the Opera Ball from San Ramon's Rock’nrolla Poodles, while getting her photo taken during the opening night of the San Francisco Opera in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)
No. 8 rottweiler: This 5-year-old Rottweiler was up for adoption in 2008. (Friends of San Martin Animal Shelter)
No. 9 Yorkshire terrier: Darla goes Scotty. Darla is a 3-year-old Yorkshire terrier who was born in October and lives with her owner, Nancy Domich of San Jose, and Baxter, a 2-year-old Shih Tzu. (Rick Domich)
No. 9 Yorkshire terrier: Pets.com CEO Julie Wainright and her Yorkie, Jack. (Patrick Tehan/Staff archives)
10. German shorthaired pointer: CJ, the winner of the 2016 Westminster Kennel Club Winner Visits One World Observatory at One World Trade Center on February 17, 2016, in New York City. (Theo Wargo/Getty Images)
No. 11 boxer: Bonnie , a 5-year-old Boxer, tries to lick Julio Morones,15, during one of the Hug-A-Pet assisted therapy program at the Pacific Autisum Center for Education in Sunnyvale. ( Luci S. Houston/Staff archives)
No. 11 boxer: Search and Rescue Dog Training. Boxers , 3 year old Tanis and 9 year old Juba wait for a command from their owner, Rhonda Dyer, a dog trainr and member of the California Ruscue Dog Association. (Judith Calson)
No. 12 Siberian huskies: Pearl, a 14-year-old Siberian husky belonging to Holistic Hound owner Heidi Hill, eats a Treatibles cannabis product for dogs in Berkeley, Calif, on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2015. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)
No. 12 Siberian huskies: Their disabilities don't slow down these Siberian huskies.
No. 13 dachsund: Audrey is a 2-year-old female dachsund with the long floppy ears and big eyes of her breed. She was up for adoption in 2012. (Courtesy of East Bay SPCA)
No. 14 Great Danes: Denise Matulich, of Cameron Park, walks with her Best of Breed Great Dane named Henry during the Great Dane judging at the Santa Clara Valley Kennel Club's annual AKC licensed all-breed dog show at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group)
No. 14 Great Danes: Trina Asbell, of Danville, drives her convertible down Bollinger Canyon Road with her dog "Kora" in San Ramon, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. Asbell was driving home after taking the 11-month old 140-pound Harlequin Great Dane to the Memorial Park dog park. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)
No. 15 Pembroke Welsh corgsi: Chompers the Corgi, an Instagram pet celebrity, will stop by the Great Mall to take photos with you and your pet from 8 to 10 a.m. this Saturday. (Courtesy of Great Mall)
No. 15 Pembroke Welsh corgsi: Geordi La Corgi takes in the view from the rooftop of a garage overlooking
Playa Vista on Aug. 8, 2017. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
As much as I want to say “just get her the dog,” I won’t. You need to be as committed to the adoption as your mom is, and you shouldn’t feel guilty if having a dog isn’t for you. I would encourage you, however, to talk with others who have dogs and see just how big a commitment might be required from you.
A lot of thought needs to go into the decision. Consider the size of your home, access to a fenced backyard, and what breed and size of dog would be best. Larger dogs require more exercise than someone who is unsteady on her feet might be able to provide. Certain other breeds are full of energy and need a lot of attention.
Talk to the staff and volunteers at shelters and rescue groups. They can point you toward smaller dogs with mellow personalities. A lot of older dogs fit that category.
If you ultimately say no to the dog, perhaps friends with dogs could visit often and let your mom have time with their pets.
You’ve already given your mom a great gift — sharing your home with her and caring for her. If you are able, I think allowing your mom to have a dog would be another tremendous gift that would make her very happy.