Anyone whose dog I admired, or at least tolerated, said the same thing: "In the beginning, it's a lot like having another child." I had two and then three children of my own, so I knew that was code for "crapload of work," and this was not encouraging. But there was my boy, with a multiplicity of special needs and a passion for dogs. So, I did what I always do in times of uncertainty and attacked stack after stack of books, from training and behavioral guides to personal essays and memoirs, anything I could get my hands on about life with a dog. In my reading I came across something the writer Jon Katz said in one of his books: at the end of the day, a dog is an animal and even a good dog, a well-trained dog, will do stupid and disgusting things. He gave the example of his Lab, who loved to roam in the woods, find vile things to eat and then be sick inside the house. Most people don't want a real animal, Katz contends; they want a Disney dog.4 Questions to Ask YourselfI hadn't realized a Disney dog was exactly what I wanted, and up until that moment, I had thought if I worked hard enough, I could transform an animal into a cartoon fantasy. Facing reality was simultaneously a relief and a little disheartening, but in retrospect it was very helpful. If you are thinking about getting a dog, answer these questions to start the process.