Our family, already about as nuclear as you can get (husband, wife, daughter and son), decided to become that family: we got a dog. We had been toying with the idea of getting a dog since we settled here and bought a house, but we often traveled over the summer and never felt like it was fair to a pet to be often left in a kennel. So, this summer, we kept our eyes open for the “perfect” rescue dog for our family.
When we met Thor he was about 3 months old. He immediately climbed up on my son’s lap, kissed him, and fell asleep there. He is a white, soft, poodle-something, as my kids are fond of saying. This is great for me, as I am allergic to fur-dogs. He is smart and playful and a wonderful (not to mention surprising) addition to our family.
You might be wondering what a post about getting a dog is doing in a blog about higher education. For me, in many ways, as a contingent faculty member and trailing spouse, getting a dog represents a lot of different milestones both personally and professionally. Getting a dog represents putting down roots, perhaps even more so than buying a house—at least to me. Neither of our children were born here, but our dog, he is from this place, of this place, and our adopting him feels like another way to integrate ourselves in this small town community.
But he also represents for me, professionally, a point of accomplishment; we hear continually how the subsequent generations will fare worse than the generations that preceded them. I always felt that way myself, professionally: both my parents had stable, middle-class, middle-management jobs. My father, who barely finished high school, worked for the same company his whole life (and was miserable). My mother, with one year of college before dropping out, has risen the ranks and now is upper-management in the company she works for. Despite my higher education, I always felt like I hadn’t even met, let alone exceeded, the professional aspirations my parents certainly held for me.
However, we never had a dog growing up. Difficult marriage, divorce, single-motherhood and the financial precariousness that came with it, all this (and more) held us back from getting a pet. My mom loved dogs, having had one when she was little, but never allowed us to get one because of these often unspoken reasons. Although professionally I might not be where I want to be, personally, we are in a place as a family that I never had growing up. It might have taken professional sacrifices, but these are sacrifices I can live with given where we are as a family: a place where we can get a dog.
As I sit and try to unwind after another long, hard day of teaching and parenting, the dog curls up next to me and I am astounded that I am finally at this place, at this point in my life: a house, a husband, a job, two kids, and a dog. There are still moments where I wonder if I made the right choices, sacrificing my professional goals and aspirations for our family. But they are becoming fewer and farther between, as I become more aware that my choices had led to a different kind of “upward mobility,” one that I am grateful for.
Morehead, Kentucky in the US.
Lee Elaine Skallerup has a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta in Comparative Literature. She has taught in two Canadian provinces and three States, and is now branching out as an edupreneur. You can visit her blog at College Ready Writing and follow her on Twitter (@readywriting). Lee is also a member of the editorial collective at University of Venus.