It’s happening. My dog is applying to colleges. Well known colleges. Prestigious colleges. Colleges she has no chance of getting in to because she slacked off a little too much third period.
It feels entirely too soon to be going through this. Just yesterday, it seems, we (my wife and I) were meeting her for the first time. There she was, sitting in the grass outside of PetSmart, a toy fox by her side. We couldn’t have been more excited, and less prepared.
Now, almost two years later, she’s applying for colleges. Sure, she’s just a young teenager. But it’s what you have to do just to stay competitive. Dog colleges, as it turns out, are extremely competitive. Perhaps more so than human colleges, even. For instance, our neighbor’s dog, a young sheltie, is off at her second piano lesson of the day. After that, she’s got advanced ballet, followed by woodworking for people who are already pretty good at woodworking. She’s the only dog in a class full of humans. She’s that good! Rumor has it, she’s even got a paw in the door at Barkvard University. Meanwhile, we (my dog, wife, and I) just mastered the doggie door.
It’s also expensive. I hate to be the dog dad that points out how much his dog’s school could cost, but $20,000 for a year at state? $50,000 for a year at Barkmouth, the school she so desperately wants to go to? It’s a lot to take in. And, if Dad is being honest, it sometimes makes him feel as though that “pleasant little surprise” a couple of years ago may not have been so pleasant. But then, as always, she’ll rest her paw on my foot, or sit patiently by my side, and I’ll forget about the car my wife and I won’t be getting or the vacation we won’t be taking.
Her love for us is unconditional, and ours for her too. So of course we’ll do anything to help her achieve her goals—whether that be mastering the doggie door or applying to college—even if that goal costs the same as a manned mission to the moon. As a matter of fact, we’re working on an application now. She’s writing an essay on why she wants to go to Barkmouth, I’m editing, and my wife is editing my editing because I can be “a bit of a loose cannon” on the page. She flatters me. Anyway, here’s a brief excerpt:
“But most of all, I want to make my parents proud. I know they worry—especially Dad. I know the cost and competitiveness of college probably has him thinking about some joke involving a manned mission to the moon (nice one, Dad). But, deep down, I also know Barkmouth is where I’m supposed to be.”
Smart, funny, and intuitive—it’s clear she takes after Dad.* It’s also clear she’s more grown up than I’d like to admit. Which may be the toughest part about this process. She no longer needs me as much as I’d like to be needed, and in only four short dog years she’ll be packing her bags and heading off to college, wherever that may be.
They say it goes fast. And they’re right. One second you’re holding her in your arms, an eight-week-old puppy slobbering all over you because she’s still a little car sick, and the next she’s writing essays for her college applications. It happens in the blink of an eye. So, as much as I can, I’m going to embrace and cherish the next four dog years. Take too many photos. Play too much. Embarrass her in front of her friends. Give her a few too many treats under the table. Let her pee on as many bushes and fire hydrants as she wants. Because soon she’ll be away at college, and soon I’ll have to take out a second mortgage on the house that I don’t have yet because college is expensive, but parents will pay for it anyway because they love their kids unconditionally.
It’s shameful that colleges take advantage of that (I stand by that, Barkmouth!).
*A later draft of this read: “It’s clear she takes after Mom. Dad’s an idiot, and sleeping on the couch tonight.” My wife had nothing to do with it.