How To Keep A Girl For Ten Years: Taking the Plunge into Pet Parenthood

The bonding experience of owning a pet is a lot like having children — minus dishing out $240,000 before college. You or someone you know surely nurtures an unhealthy relationship with a pet and the only thing better than an unhealthy obsession is an unhealthy obsession in pairs. I say “unhealthy” facetiously as it’s pretty much common knowledge that owning a pet lowers blood pressure and decreases anxiety — if you’re in a relationship there is nothing you need more!

If you’re anything like my girlfriend, Natalie, and I, the connection you develop with your pet will help define your sense of humanity better than most human relationships you have or ever will experience.


Natalie taking cover with our two dogs in the hall at her work during a scary 2011 tornado outbreak.

Our road to pet parenthood was a bumpy one. Our first pet was a Betta Fish — Laurence Fishburne, who fell on his sword via my elbow accidentally knocking the tank one fateful evening. Unlike his namesake, there was no Matrix bullet-time descent, it was over before I realized it was happening.

“Did you just kill our fish?” Natalie instantly emerged from the next room with the severe accusation as though she suspected I had this plan for awhile. I feel absolutely dreadful about it, despite Natalie’s continued suspicion.

During this era, we also had two cats, Dr. Pickles and Ms. John Soda. These cats currently reside with Natalie’s mother — due to our eventual discovery that Natalie is severely allergic to cats. Many nights we marveled at the ever increasing welts all over her legs, arms and stomach and her eyelids slowly swelling shut with every passing moment. We figured it was her shellfish allergy, even though she wasn’t eating any shellfish. She survived on Xanax and Prednisone (which is a steroid) and yes she attempted to purposefully run over five children with her car during this period. Worth noting, upon arrival at her mother’s, Dr. Pickles swiftly abandoned his PhD in favor of the sole moniker “Paris”.

A couple years later, after the wounds had healed…enter Gogol, the Mexican Hairless (aka Xoloitzcuintli) extra-terrestrial dog. It was a bit of a haul from Raleigh to King, NC where we found Gogol. His birthplace was a quaint farmhouse with scads of children, animals and heavy indoor chain-smokers. We sat anxiously at their dining room table as Gogol’s breeder — who reminded us of a benevolent Aileen Wuornos — described her relationship with Pepe (Gogol’s birth-mom). “The thing about this dog is,” she took a drag off her cigarette and tossed a piece of American cheese into Pepe’s mouth (who was standing on the dining table), “when I die, they’ll have to bury her with me, she loves me that much.” Selfishly, we hoped this new puppy would adore us with the same Shakespearean morbidity as Pepe.


Eventually she handed Gogol over to me with one hand like a bag of frozen peas. I felt the same level of discomfort holding him as I do a newborn baby. “Am I doing this right? Am I supposed to support the neck? Does he have a soft spot on his head?” I didn’t want to hold him anymore until he was mine.”Wow, his skin is so weird,” I immediately regretted saying it and hoped Natalie would recover for the 3-pointer. Natalie is the Groucho to my Harpo Marx, I rely on her witticisms in most social situations.

“I hate when people call these dogs ugly, I think they’re so cool and I just love that they’re different”, Natalie added knowingly. (Swooooosh)

Gogol was, in fact, far from ugly to us — he had silky brown skin with white spots and a fluffy, perfectly centered white mohawk on his head. He rolled over on his back in seconds and fell asleep in my arms — not waking when I passed him to Natalie, his immediate comfort seemed in stark contrast to our trepidation. We exchanged glances, searching in each other’s eyes for an answer. Are we ready for this? Of course we were. We asked for directions to the nearest ABC store where we purchased a bottle of premium vodka on our way home with the newest edition to our family.


Gogol fashioned in unlikely dog accessories — one of our favorite pastimes.

The puppy years were a challenge. We found Gogol to be a connoisseur of the finer things — thankfully Natalie’s things, for the most part. Here is the tally of what Gogol destroyed during his adolescence:

Natalie: Dior sunglasses, iPhone, two pairs of boots, an antique 19th century altar which was a family heirloom
Robyn: A book of The Complete Pirelli Calendars, valued over $200, out of print — an excellent selection. Naturally, he couldn’t have obliterated something of less value in our collection like one of Chuck Klosterman’s fiction works, Lord of the Flies or anything by Tom Wolfe.

Interestingly enough, he didn’t damage anything OTHER than those items. It’s as if his gut was some sort of internalized pawn shop and he had no time to waste on proletariat selections.


A couple years later we adopted Gustav, the tenderhearted Chinese Crested dog. Gustav came from an abusive show-home in Las Vegas, and rightfully so, he’s a tad neurotic. Sometimes we catch him in complete Faye Dunaway regalia, furiously reciting her monologue from Mommie Dearest in the bedroom mirror:

“No… wire… hangers. What’s wire hangers doing in this closet when I told you: no wire hangers EVER? I work and work ’till I’m half-dead, and I hear people saying, “She’s getting old.” And what do I get? A daughter… who cares as much about the beautiful dresses I give her… as she cares about me. What’s wire hangers doing in this closet? Answer me!”


Kidding aside, Gustav has retired to a life of leisure free from any pain, worry, and the pressures of celebrity.

A picture of Gustav not attached to Faye Dunaway's body

A picture of Gustav not attached to Faye Dunaway’s body

That’s our basic story. Ready to take the plunge into pet parenthood yet? Here are some things you and your significant other should consider:

1. Together you will discover there is nothing unhealthy about open mouth kissing your pet other than the bacterium campylobacter and salmonella.

Natalie and Gogol about to lock lips against a scenic backdrop.

Natalie and Gogol about to lock lips against a scenic backdrop.

2. Have you ever voraciously sobbed while comforting something that just vomited all over your brand new imported Fereghan carpet?

3. You’ll likely attempt to make your pet wear shoes and fail.
You may try several times, hoping that maybe your pet is the sneaker type and those boots were just too flashy for his or her taste. Heed this warning; 9 out of 10 pets won’t wear shoes ever.

4. Are you ready to spend a lot of money?
Routine vet visits, spaying/neutering, vaccinations, check-ups, flea, tick and heartworm treatments are not optional. You’ll need a nest egg for emergencies, too. Prepare for pet deposits if you rent or stay in hotels and plan on bringing your companion. Depending on your species of choice, they will need beds, collars, leashes, and factor in litter for a cat. You will need to budget for decent pet food, treats and toys, unless you’re an asshole. Pro-tip: TJ Maxx, Ross, Homegoods and Marshalls are your friends for decent quality affordable beds and toys.

5. You will begin to separate the people in your life into two categories: those who allow your pet into their house and those who don’t.
You will gradually begin to eliminate the latter group from your life completely. If you’re in really deep, you will start picking off people who don’t respond to pictures of your pet with the appropriate level of enthusiasm.

6. Going the dog route?
Prepare to get off your rear several times a day because owning a dog is a lot like living with Jillian Michaels. It’s important to exercise and socialize your dog so that he or she doesn’t become overly timid or aggressive. Luckily, our dogs sleep in. Your pet may not. Be prepared to potentially wake up earlier than you’re used to, if you’re not an early riser.


7. Unless you have a hairless pet, a non-shedding breed, a reptile, a caged animal or fish — accept that you may never enjoy the color black with ease ever again.

8. Accept the fact that you will likely love your pet as much as a parent loves their child, to the very last beat of their heart — literally.

The relative lifespan of a human compared to dog is 7.9 to 11.8 years, indoor cats averaging around 12-14 years. Natalie and I have already built an underground bunker stockpiled with non-perishables and an ample supply of booze and narcotics so we may descend into madness comfortably. This is a consideration we did not make before purchasing a pet and something that neither of us are truly prepared for. The lifespan of domesticated animals compared to humans is possibly nature’s cruelest invention.

Consider the responsibilities above before diving into pet ownership together. If you’re ready for the commitment of time and money, the physical, spiritual and emotional benefits can be innumerable. Plus, there’s nothing like the thought of a gruesome custody battle to keep you together.

Pet owner already? Share your experience!

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Robyn resides in Raleigh, North Carolina by way of sunny Syracuse, NY. She loves her girl, her self, her two canine heartthrobs & witbier Sundays. Oh, and her family — hi, family!

RobynC has written 6 articles for us.


  1. Thanks for this article. I’m sure your tips will come in handy one day as we’re thinking of going the dog route. =) I always tell people having a pet isn’t all that easy, it’s like taking care of a child, you need to feed it, love it and clean it. This has also given me a new perspective on hairless dogs. I’ve always thought they look really cute!! =) Great read!!!

    • Thank you! Natalie and I are were hesitant at first but I am not sure we could ever go back to the hairy variety, it’s like sleeping with a hot water bottle. They have little to no flea issues and are virtually odorless although if not bathed semi-regularly they break out like a teenager. I would recommend!

  2. i’m a dog lover i’m a dog owner and a girl who wants to love a dog with me is such a keeper. i love any article about pets, really, but especially this one! your dog is adorable!

  3. Adopt! Always adopt! Better yet, foster first. My person and I have learned so much in our adventures fostering together, and we got a perfect Beagi (Beagle/Corgi) out of it.

  4. We’ve quite literally amassed a tiny zoo here. While I’m pretty sure the 4th cat was probably a momentary lapse of reason, our 2 pups are our babies. I never knew how much love a person could have for a furball before we got them and now at 2 years old I’m already terrified of our lifespan differential. We aren’t going to have human children, but with these kiddos around I don’t feel like I’m missing anything!

    This column is my new favorite :)

    • We are too selfish for human children but not so completely self absorbed that we can’t handle a pet, perfect!

      Thank you!

  5. Whenever my girlfriend and I choose to enter into domestic bliss, we’ll face the similarly daunting task of integrating two pets that come from single pet homes. She has a sweet natured gray and white Pit Bull, I have a cranky gray and white street cat.

    I predict this will also involve a bottle of vodka on our part and a world of patience. My cat is an a-hole.

  6. 1. “You or someone you know surely nurtures an unhealthy relationship with a pet.” *shifty eyes*

    2. “Accept that you may never enjoy the color black with ease ever again.” UNLESS you colour-coordinate your pet with your wardrobe! Black kitties are always the last to find forever homes, which makes no sense because they are the bestest.

    3. My own bestest black kitty with whom I may or may not nurture an unhealthy relationship walked across my chest and blocked my view of the screen while I was reading this, and is now sitting beside me with his paw on my arm looking at me pointedly. I take this behaviour to mean that he wants me to tell you all about how wonderful he is. Done.

    • Just was talking about how I’ve always preferred black cats. Maybe people are just stupid and superstitious by and large?

  7. Such an awesome article – pets and girls (can’t get any better)

    Adopter beware, though. A friend of mine and her girlfriend adopted a pup but 4 years into their partnership when they broke up, they had a hard time deciding who’d keep him. It was so heartbreaking seeing them fight over him. Dogs become like children!

  8. As a professional dog trainer with four dogs (also two cats and a parrot) I worried what would happen if I fell in love with someone who was allergic to animals, or, worse, just not that into them. What I never considered was what it would be like to fall in love with someone just like me. After years of failed relationships, I found the perfect woman, another dog trainer…

    When my partner and I merged households we ended up with 11 dogs, two cats and an african grey parrot and a cockatiel. It was overwhelming at first, I constantly felt like we were doing a gay remake of The Brady Bunch. Our oldest dogs got along fine, but a couple of the youngsters, each used to being the ‘baby’ of the family, took some time to really make peace with each other. It’s been an adventure, but one I would’ trade in for the world.

  9. Definitely be sure you’re ready to take on the commitment! It’s really sad when people don’t realize how much goes in to caring for a pet and the pet suffers because of it. Also pets + breakups are the worst.

    BUT OTHER THAN THAT pets are the best. My (parent’s) dog is my favorite part of coming home. Can’t wait til I’m settled enough to bring a dog into my life. :D (also it’s helpful that i’ve converted my girlfriend from a cat person to a dog person.)(not that I don’t love cats too… because I do.)

    • Yes, absolutely, getting a pet – however big or small – is a massive commitment, and changes your life for better and for worse (better = PET LOVE, worse = say goodbye to spontaneous trips/socialising/adventures)

      However I would say that there will never be a time that you feel “settled enough” to bring a pet into your life. Or at least, I didn’t feel settled enough at all, but then we found our cat as a stray and he stayed, and now I can’t imagine my life without him. I didn’t know it yet but I was totally ready to channel every vaguely broody or motherly instinct I never knew I had towards this little furry monster.

  10. Love these articles as my girlfriend and I are about to hit ten years. We have two dogs, one cat and three goldfish.

    My gf is the animal lover and she had to talk me into acquiring all our babies but it is so worth the expense and it does wonders for the relationship. Watching someone rub cream on your dog’s itchy belly makes you love them a little bit more, plus there’s nothing like walking through the door to barks/meows/bubbles of love!

  11. Yes!! I came with animals and my gf had dogs. We have helped each other through losing the dogs we had when we started dating four years ago. She was my rock and I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through it without her.

    On a happier note, my gf was decidedly NOT a cat person and now loves and adores our black kitty. She’s still not really a fan of other cats though lol. We also rescued a dog together. Strangely enough all my animals have been black. I’ve never planned it, it just happened.

    A great thing we’ve found is to find friends that you can exchange puppy sitting with. We visit my parents often and at the moment it’s not feasible to bring our pup. No room at the inn so to speak. So she has puppy sleepovers for some weekends and is a super happy girl.

    Great article!!!

    • I suppose it’s better to go through that loss together than alone. I’ve always been fond of black cats (happy Friday the 13th) & thanks for the kind words!

  12. This whole article resonates with me on a deep level (my girlfriend just sent me a link to this with “Have you met this woman – she basically described your life.”


  13. I absolutely adore this article. The Mommie Dearest monologue had me visibly cracking up alone in my office.

    • Thank you! I could barely contain my laughter as I was poorly photo-shopping his face on Faye. I worried, will anyone get this?

  14. My girlfriend and I accidentally adopted a cat after less than a month of dating. We found him outside her place and it was really cold and snowy, but the shelter had no space. And of course by the time they could take him a week later we had already fallen in love and decided to keep him.

  15. I bribed my girlfriend to move from Chicago, IL to Las Cruces, NM with me for my internship by promising her a dog. She had grown up having dogs and my dad was seriously anti-pet so it really felt like it was more for her than it was for me. However, 4 months later I can say that I didn’t think I could love something that has routinely peed on my floor this much. And watching her play with our dog, Joss, is one of my favorite parts of my day.

    Love your column and can’t wait for more!

    • Thank you and thanks for sharing your story! Natalie just finished telling me that Gogol shat on the floor at her work and seconds later she was petting him adoringly.

  16. My wife and I have two cats. It’s really the best for our lifestyle because as long as we come home at some point and feed them/clean up the litter, they’re pretty self-sufficient! But also cuddly. Even if they are assholes.

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